Friday, May 6, 2011

50th Anniversary of the Freedom Riders: Oprah Honors American Heroes

*  A short background on the 1961 Freedom Riders, taken from Wikipedia:

Freedom riders were
civil rights activists that rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to test the United States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia (of 1960).[1] The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961,[2] and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.[3]

Boynton v. Virginia had outlawed
racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. Five years prior to the Boynton ruling, the Interstate Commerce Commission had issued a ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company that had explicitly denounced the Plessy v. Ferguson doctrine of separate but equal in interstate bus travel, but the ICC had failed to enforce its own ruling, and thus Jim Crow travel laws remained in force throughout the South.

The Freedom Riders set out to challenge this status quo by riding various forms of public transportation in the South to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation. The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the
American Civil Rights Movement and called national attention to the violent disregard for the law that was used to enforce segregation in the southern United States. Riders were arrested for trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating state and local Jim Crow laws, along with other alleged offenses.  CLICK HERE to read more.

*  The Oprah Winfrey show on May 4, 2011:  "Oprah honors American Heroes:  Freedom Riders Reunite 50 Years Later"

Beginning on May 4, 1961, 436 courageous and determined persons -- both black and white -- risked their lives to participate in the Freedom Rides.
On May 4, 2011, the 50th anniversary of the start of the Freedom Rides, Oprah Winfrey had the 178 survivors of the Freedom Rides on her show to honor these American heroes.

CLICK HERE for several short clips from Oprah's show.  Listen to why people made the decision to participate in the Freedom Rides and what they endured.  Scroll down to the bottom of the link to see a list of helpful resources.
CLICK HERE to read a rather complete summary of the entire show.
CLICK HERE to retrace the Rides and to learn about the history of the Freedom Rides.

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