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Freedom Riders (DVD Review)

8 May, 2011 By: Angelique Flores

Street 5/17/11
$24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray
Not rated.

During the Freedom Rides of 1961, Civil Rights activists rode buses to the Deep South to check and defy the unenforced desegregation laws at interstate bus terminals. This simple yet brave action by more than 433 Riders led to the federal government putting pressure on the Interstate Commerce Commission to comply the with desegregation laws passed years earlier by the federal government.

This installment in PBS’ “American Experience” series details the 1961 Freedom Rides, which was arguably the first widespread victory in the Civil Rights movement.

The Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, planned the first ride of both blacks and whites, men and women. In a nonviolent protest, the Riders rode regularly scheduled Greyhound and Trailways buses. They were subjected to angry and violent mobs, racial slurs, beatings and had their buses set on fire in Alabama and Mississippi. Some ended up in hospitals, many ended up in prison. But no one gave up, and the movement continued to grow, despite Martin Luther King Jr.’s refusal to ride and his apprehension to support the Riders.

The Rides are well documented with stirring and shocking photographs, video footage, news and radio clips from both domestic and foreign news outlets, and newspaper articles.

The documentary not only captures the voices and personal accounts of many who participated and witnessed the rides, but it also puts the entire event in context within John F. Kennedy’s administration and the American state of mind. Interestingly, the film also describes the larger perception of the United States by other countries as a result of the violence that occurred during the rides.

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