In 1961, during the first year of John F. Kennedy's presidency, more than 400 Americans participated in a dangerous experiment designed to awaken the conscience of a complacent nation.
The Riders' plan was deceptively simple: traveling together in small interracial groups, they sat where they pleased on buses and trains, terminal restaurants and waiting rooms. They did so knowing that their actions would almost certainly prompt a violent direct action – many endured savage beatings and imprisonment. Invoking the philosophy of nonviolent direct action, they willingly put their bodies on the line for the cause of racial justice.
But issues of race – then, as now – are rarely simple. -- Freedom Riders Study Guide, Facing History and Ourselves.
American Experience: Freedom Riders
Utah's Freedom Riders
This PBS Utah documentary highlights the contributions many Utahns have made to the Civil Rights movement.
This film tells the story of civil rights activists called "Freedom Riders" which took brave actions to dismantle the structures of discrimination through nonviolence.
National Youth Summit: Freedom Rides
This website includes a recorded webcast of members of the 1961 Freedom Rides discussing their experiences in the movement and a teachers guide.
- Why did people join the Freedom Rides?
- When prejudice and racism are supported by both custom and law, what can be done to create a more inclusive society? How do you explain why there is often so much resistance to change?
- How does nonviolent direct action expose injustice? Why was it such an effective strategy for bringing about change during the civil rights movement?
- What role did the media play in the Freedom Rides? How to media shape our understanding of the issues of our time?
- What does the story of the Freedom Rides suggest about the role of citizens in shaping democracy?
- Who were the Freedom Riders?
Videos in eMedia
Utah educators and students can download the following videos from UEN's eMedia.
My America. Symbols of Freedom & Justice
Turkey and Eagle visit historic monuments and memorials that symbolize freedom and justice for all Americans. Students learn that "justice" means being fair to everyone.
My America. America In Its Own Words
Students learn how America's ideals, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, are goals we still strive to meet today.
My America. What is an American?
America is a land of immigrants. This program gives students a sense of the different cultures, languages and heritages that make up this great land.
Great American Authors. 1950-1957
If the lost generation authors were searching for identity and meaning, the group of authors in this program rejected everything about mainstream America.
Great American Authors. 1958-Present
This generation of writers witnessed and participated in WWII, The Korean War, The Cold War, The Civil Rights movement, and Vietnam.
American Experience. Murder of Emmett Till
The murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, a black boy who whistled at a white woman in a Mississippi grocery store in 1955, was a powerful catalyst for the civil rights movement.