Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It All Started on a Bus: The Freedom Riders

Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat
Martin Luther King, Jr. was the face, the voice and the spirit behind the civil rights movement, but he was not alone. It all on started on a bus in 1955, when Rosa Parks, a seamstress, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, which was in violation of segregation laws at the time. She later appealed the conviction, challenging the legality of segregation. Rosa Park's actions soon prompted bus boycotts in Montgomery, Alabama, which lead to the desegregation of Montgomery buses and became one of the movement's first victories. The boycotts, led by King, propelled him to the champion the cause.

The boycotts may have advanced the movement, but it wasn't until 1961, that widespread desegregation in public transportation was in seen in the South.
Freedom Riders' bombed-out bus

 Coming from a variety of racial, ethnic and economical backgrounds, 436 students risked their lives on buses, planes and trains, in pursuit of racial equality. What became known as "Freedom Rides" took place throughout the South in support of civil rights, where in some cases; participants were harassed, beaten and jailed.

HART is honoring Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr. and Kredelle Petway, throughout February for their contributions toward advancing racial equality as part of the Freedom Riders. Joining them is Dr. Raymond Arsenault, author of the award winning book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, which shined the spotlight on the 436 courageous and determined individuals, 50 years after the rides t through the South.

Keep on the lookout for our PSAs featuring the trio on My Fox Tampa Bay (Channel 13 on most TVs) and PBS (WEDU) throughout the month. We'll also be featuring them individually on the blog over the next few weeks.

One man had a dream that one day all men would be created equal. That dream became a reality through the actions of many, including Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders. HART honors the role that transit played in advancing that dream of equality. It all started on a bus...

Above: Video (5 minutes) remembering the acts of the Freedom Riders, with a few interviews from two of the Freedom Riders, along with Dr. Arsenault, whom documented their stories.

Visit for more information and video clips on the Freedom Riders.

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