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Anniversary of ‘Freedom Riders’ Rolls into UW April 20

April 14, 2011
People standing by a bus
A Freedom Riders bus, transporting civil rights activists who challenged segregation 50 years ago in the American south, is stoned and firebombed. A screening of the PBS documentary "Freedom Riders" is planned Wednesday, April 20, at the University of Wyoming. (Courtesy of Corbis)

A screening of the documentary "Freedom Riders," based on the courageous band of civil rights activists who challenged segregation 50 years ago in the American South, will be shown Wednesday, April 20, at the University of Wyoming.

In partnership with UW, Wyoming PBS will host "Freedom Riders: Would YOU Get on the Bus?" at two separate sessions -- noon-1 p.m. and from 1-2 p.m. -- in the Wyoming Union Family Room. The event is free, open to the public and will include food.

A 10-minute clip of the forthcoming American Experience film "Freedom Riders," will be shown followed by discussion. Among the speakers are Wyoming Rep. James Byrd from Cheyenne; Aimee Glocke, UW Department of African American and Diaspora Studies assistant professor; and Sonia Gahimbare, UW Association of Black Student Leaders president. Wyoming PBS General Manager Ruby Calvert and Jennifer Amend, promotions manager, also will attend.

"Freedom Riders," which premiers nationwide Monday, May 16, on PBS, was selected to be shown at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival last year. It will broadcast at 8 p.m. on Wyoming PBS.

Freedom riders were civil rights activists that rode interstate buses into the segregated south to test the United States Supreme Court decision Boynton v. Virginia of 1960. The case overturned a judgment convicting an African American law student for trespassing by being in a restaurant in a bus terminal which was "whites only." The Supreme Court stated that racial segregation in public transportation was illegal because such segregation violated the Interstate Commerce Act, which broadly forbade discrimination in interstate passenger transportation.

"Freedom Riders" is the inspirational story of six months that changed America. From May through November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives -- many endured savage beatings and imprisonment -- for simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way.

Organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the self-proclaimed "Freedom Riders" came from all walks of American society -- black and white, young and old, male and female, northern and southern.

From award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson ("Wounded Knee," "Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple," and "The Murder of Emmett Till") "Freedom Riders" features testimony from the cast of central characters -- the riders themselves, state and federal government officials and journalists who witnessed actual events firsthand 50 years ago. The two-hour documentary is based on Raymond Arsenault's book "Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice."

For more information, contact Chicory Bechtel, UW Multicultural Affairs project coordinator, at (307) 766-6463 or email

Wyoming PBS is a non-commercial, educational institution and cultural resource dedicated to connecting and enriching Wyoming lives through innovative media. Wyoming PBS can be found on various channels across Wyoming. For more information and a complete listing of channel numbers, visit the website at

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