Riding to Freedom May 17, 2011Posted by Matt in politics, race, television.
Tags: Freedom Riders, Jim Crow, Little Rock Central High School, nonviolence, PBS, racism
Last night proved to be one more reason why I love public television. In case you missed it, PBS aired their latest American Experience documentary, this one celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders, a truly heroic movement of the 1960’s in the struggle for Civil Rights.
The movement was comprised of young people (as most movements tend to be), both black and white, who joined together to challenge the Jim Crow laws of the Deep South. Together they rode public transportation and used public facilities, purposefully and nonviolently flouting the unjust segregationist laws, and for their trouble they were beaten and jailed, many of them on numerous occasions, as they brought national attention to the prevalent racist attitudes of the South.
In many ways, this level of hatred seems so foreign to those of us who were born years after these events took place, as if it couldn’t have possibly happened here. It’s particularly heinous now when I consider that some of our closest friends are black and how just 50 years ago that could not have happened – at least not without severe repercussions.
It was a very moving program, perhaps even more so when I consider the words my mom said to me a few weeks ago, one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received in my life. She had just seen the Freedom Riders on Oprah and called me to let me know about the upcoming documentary and that was when she said this to me, “Matt, it’s the kind of thing you would have done. I don’t think any of the rest of us could have done it, but I know you could have.”
That means a lot.
P.S. I also want to give a shout-out to Brian Schwieger, a former classmate of mine at Harding University who is helping to put on an event later this month marking the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders at Little Rock Central High School. Those of you who are in central Arkansas should check it out.