Thursday, April 7, 2011

Freedom Riders

It all started on a bus...

If you’re younger than 50, you most likely don’t remember a time of “Whites Only” water fountains, and “black” and “white” student segregation. Racial tension filled the late 50's/early 60's air as “blacks” (and “non-blacks”) stood up for their civil rights given to them by the Constitution.

Fifty years ago, more than 400 “black” and “white” students risked their lives – socially and physically – simply by taking a stand and deliberately breaking Jim Crowe laws by traveling together through the Deep South on buses and trains. Following Dr. Martin Luther King’s call for non-violent protests, the Freedom Riders were greeted along the way with savage beatings and imprisonment. After a courageous six months, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued its order to end segregation in bus and rail stations on September 22, 1961.

Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson brings to Tampa, Freedom Riders, an inspirational story of those six months in 1961 that changed America forever. WEDU is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides with a free event and premiere screening of Freedom Riders at the Tampa Theater on Wednesday, April 13, at 7 pm.

HART is proud to be a sponsor of the event, and in honor of the original Freedom Rides, HART is conducting a “Freedom Ride” of sorts. HART is inviting Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Students interested in history, specifically the Civil Rights Movement, to join us on a bus tour looking at historic landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement in Tampa. A HART bus will pick up 30 HCC students at the HCC Ybor City Campus Performing Arts Center on Palm Ave. at 5:30 pm, the day of the event.

Clarence Fort, former President of the NAACP Youth Council, who led the first Tampa sit-ins in 1956 and fought for the first “black” Tampa Bus Operators, will provide insight into the Civil Rights Movement as Tampa experienced it. The tour will end at the Tampa Theater in time for the event. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet several of the original Freedom Riders.

For a short (5 min.) video on the role transit played locally in the Civil Rights Movement, please click here.
For more information on the film "Freedom Riders" please visit

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