PBS & Arsenault: Freedom Riders

PBS premiers a new documentary that highlights 6 months in the battle against Jim Crow—and it ain’t even Black History Month! I see you PBS. According to their website, “From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South.” But you know if I’m posting about it, a book must be involved. In this case, it’s Raymond Arsenault’s Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice:

May 21, 1961. It was Sunday night on the New Frontier, and freedom was on the line in Montgomery, Alabama. Earlier in the evening, more than a thousand black Americans, including the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and several other nationally prominent civil rights leaders, had gathered at the First Baptist Church (Colored) to show their support for a visiting band of activists known as Freedom Riders. Located just a few blocks from the state capitol where President Jeferson Davis had sworn allegiance to the Confederate cause in 1861, First Baptist had been the setting for a number of dramatic events over the years. But the historic church had never witnessed anything quite like the situation that was unfolding both inside and outside its walls. For several hours the Freedom Riders and the congregation sang hymns and freedom songs and listened to testimonials about courage and commitment. But as the spirit of hope and justice rose inside the crowded sanctuary, a wholly different mood of defiance and outrage developed outside. (Read more . . .)

Even Oprah got on board with her own Freedom Riders special that featured not only Arsenault, but also a full audience of other participants from the movement. Sorry I missed that—and there wasn’t a DVR option involved to record it. Doh!

Happy reading, y’all.

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