Celebrating Fifty Years Since the Freedom Rides on Television

Oprah sits with Freedom Rider activist Diane Nash on her show “I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for your courage,” Oprah said “but I am frustrated, I am disappointed, and at times angry that the history does not get carried forth.” Oprah was speaking about the Freedom Rides, a months-long Civil Rights demonstration in 1961 organized by CORE and executed by young people risking their life to travel by bus from Washington, D.C. to the Deep South to challenge segregation. Combining historical commemoration with the highly-watched last season of her talk show, Oprah honored these incredible activists with a special segment. Regardless of how you feel about the media mogul, she’s bringing an incredible historical legacy to a huge audience and reminding everyone that there’s plenty of work left to do. On her show yesterday, the fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom Rides, Oprah teared up introducing almost 200 surviving activists of the ride to her show. She also featured filmmaker Stanley Nelson, whose film Freedom Riders will premiere on PBS later this month. If you’re like me and didn’t catch the live show, there’s plenty to browse through on Oprah’s site (although I highly advise grabbing a box of Kleenex first), including then-and-now pictures, testimonies from Freedom Riders, historical background and maps, and video clips, including Diane Nash (pictured above) sharing lessons for today. “Voting is not enough,” said Nash. “Please stop leaving it to the elected officials to do what needs to be done, they will never do it…Can you imagine how long it would have taken if we had depended on elected officials to desegregate public accommodations and buses?” And Freedom Riders, a film directed by Stanley Nelson, is going to premiere on PBS on May 16th. Watch the trailer, a montage of archival footage, voice-overs, and blurbs about the movie, below!

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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1 Comment Has Been Posted

I missed the show

But I was wondering if they talked about Ella Baker.

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