The Freedom Riders Essay
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Nearly 200 years ago, after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, slavery was no longer allowed; but America was still segregated. Segregation in many public places continued especially in the South. At this time, segregation was legal. In 1892, the Supreme Court had ruled that a state could separate whites and blacks as long as the services were equal. On May 4, 1961, a diverse group of thirteen courageous individuals known as the Freedom Riders embarked on a bus journey into the South in order to challenge segregation in bus terminals. Although many individuals believed that segregation was wrong, many southern states continued to practice racial segregation. Racial segregation is the separation of humans into racial groups…show more content…
When asked by the driver why she had not stood up, Rosa replied that she did not feel that she should have to stand up. Parks said that she was tired of giving in. The police arrested Parks who was later released on bail. Rosa Parks became a symbol for the Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her seat and go to the back of the bus (Rosa Parks Biography). Although there had been a ruling by the Interstate Commerce Commission that blacks could sit wherever they wanted on buses that traveled through more than one state and the Supreme Court had ruled that segregation on buses was unconstitutional, blacks continued to face difficulties when riding buses in the Deep South. There were signs in southern bus terminals indicating areas where blacks were to sit. Separate restrooms were to be used by whites and blacks. In order to test these rulings and draw attention to the Civil Rights Movement, a decision was made to conduct Freedom Rides. A group of whites and blacks would challenge these practices (Freedom Riders). Those who wanted to be members of this initial group were asked to complete an application, include a recommendation from a teacher or pastor, and write an essay about their commitment to the civil rights movement. Those under the age of twenty-one had to have parent permission. Several dozen applications were received. The organizers selected Freedom Riders of various religions, ages, color, and areas of the
Freedom Riders -- Film Review
8:30 PM PDT 10/14/2010 by John DeFore , AP
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PARK CITY -- Overcoming the limitations of a familiar format thanks to the sheer heroism of its tale, "Freedom Riders" digs deep into a critical chapter of the civil rights struggle and brings it to life in a plain but stirring way. Though produced for PBS and destined for a good reception there, it might hold its own in a specialty theatrical run, particularly as we approach the 50th anniversary of the events chronicled.
The doc is weakest in the first half hour, where it's unclear we'll be learning anything new: Countless shots of "Whites Only" signs are accompanied by a soundtrack sometimes approaching "Unsolved Mysteries" territory, and although hints are dropped about the scope of what's to come, the film doesn't quite generate an emotional interest equal to its moment. It's almost as if, like the small group of black and white young men and women boarding two buses in May of 1961, it expects their symbolic violation of bus segregation laws to achieve their aims quickly and with minimum fuss.
That changes dramatically when one of those buses is prevented from reaching its destination. As it recounts the Anniston, Alabama attack that left one Greyhound bus a burnt husk and its passengers beaten, the film's account becomes increasingly vivid.
After hearing about the federal intervention required to get those first protesters to safety, the decision of a second wave of students to pick up the torch is stirring -- all the more so because these riders, Southerners from Tennessee, were so clear-eyed about the physical threat of racism that each signed his or her will before getting on board.
Interviews with the riders move the action forward, but much of the film's gravity comes from those who were observers of or reactors to their acts. Attorney General Robert Kennedy's assistant John Seigenthaler, a middleman between federal and state authorities who wound up getting attacked himself, not only explains behind-the-scenes negotiations but conveys the awed disbelief with which the world's most powerful men watched the boldness of a few nameless activists.
Those young idealists have their moments in these new interviews, as Diane Nash does when she smiles simply and declares, "We were fresh troops." But overall, the ordinariness of their presentation here may be what makes their story so powerful.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival
Production company: A Firelight Media Production for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Director: Stanley Nelson
Screenwriter: Stanley Nelson
Book by Raymond Arsenault
Executive producers: Mark Samels
Producers: Stanley Nelson, Laurens Grant
Director of photography: Robert Shepard
Music: Tom Phillips
Editors: Lewis Erskine, Aljernon Tunsil
Sales Agent: Jim Dunford at WGBH
No MPAA rating, 112 minutes