In 1961, hundreds of black and white Americans traveled together on buses and trains from Washington, D.C. to several major southern cities, testing the end of Jim Crow laws in public transportation and demonstrating that they were willing to fight the injustices of segregation.
Fifty years later, the message this mass transit movement made still resonates and will be commemorated this month at “The Power of Students: Freedom Riders,” an event hosted by the College of Education’s Alonzo A. Crim Center for Urban Educational Excellence.
At this event, scheduled for 5 p.m. March 17 in the Georgia State University Speakers Auditorium, attendees will be able to see an advanced screening of the Public Broadcasting Service’s film entitled, “Freedom Riders,” which highlights the history of the Freedom Rides through the eyes of those who participated and the government officials and journalists who witnessed it firsthand.
“This student-planned event was developed out of a deep desire to showcase the collective power of students, unity through diversity, and success in the face of adversity,” said Bryan Murray, business affairs coordinator for the Crim Center. “In the 1960s, young college students took the initiative to become catalysts for national change. It is not only an awe-inspiring feat, but serves as an inspiration for students of all ages that they are capable of achieving and affecting change at any level.”
Following the film, Atlanta Journal-Constitution assignments editor Angela Tuck will moderate a discussion about the rides and the film with two Freedom Riders: Bernard Lafayette and William Harbour. Lafayette, who hails from Tampa, Fla., was part of the Nashville Student Movement Ride on May 17, 1961 and was arrested in Birmingham for his participation. Following the Freedom Rides, he worked on voting rights and serves as a Distinguished Senior Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University. Harbour, a native of Piedmont, Ala., was one of 14 Freedom Riders expelled from Tennessee State University. He later became a teacher and then worked as a civilian federal employee specializing in U.S. Army base closings, according to the film’s website.
This event, which was planned by GSU students Danyelle Thomas and Tierra Benton, is designed to show that students can make a difference even when facing seemingly insurmountable odds.
“College students, just like me, risked their education and lives to evoke change,” Thomas said. “To have an opportunity to listen to key activists like Bernard Lafayette and William Harbour tell these stories in their voice and perspective really brings things to life. It is my hope that this event awakens a spirit of activism in each of us and helps us recognize that it only takes one choice and one action to bring about incredible change.”
This event is free and open to the public.
By Claire Miller
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