Freedom and the continued struggle for it was front and center Friday night as the Fuller community joined to celebrate the men and women who participated in the Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Movement with a screening of Freedom Riders, a new documentary about the historic protest rides.
Freedom Riders chronicles the experiences of the Civil Rights activists who boarded buses to segregated Alabama in 1961 and were subsequently jailed upon arriving in the state. At the time, it was illegal in much of the South for interstate travelers to disobey local segregation laws. The non-violent protests of the Freedom Riders led the eventual overturning those laws.
Three Freedom Riders joined Reel Spirituality Co-director Camille Tucker for a discussion about their experiences after the film. Claude Liggins, Edward Johnson, and Larry Bell participated in the historic rides fifty years ago and were jailed along with the rest of the Freedom Riders.
The men gave first hand accounts as to the mood of the protestors as they drove cross-country from Los Angeles, their treatment in the jail, and the work they’ve done since for equality. Audience members engaged with the Freedom Riders, asking them to elaborate on the need for continued movements toward civil rights for all today.
The Freedom Riders challenged audience members to stay alert for the ways racism still weaves its way throughout our society, and they encouraged everyone to be willing and ready to board whatever buses need to be ridden today to ensure equality for all.
(An American Experience film, Freedom Riders will premiere May 16, 2011 on PBS. American Experience is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.)