Modeled after an earlier experiment with nonviolent direct action, the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, the Freedom Rides were planned by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and its national director, James Farmer. The goal was to test the implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Boynton v. Virginia, which outlawed segregation in public transportation facilities, including restrooms and restaurants. Organizers hoped to ignite a crisis that would compel federal intervention. After rigorous training for the mob intimidation, terror, and violence that would greet them at bus terminals throughout the Deep South, the 13 original riders left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961.

Below are a few events that are taking place to celebrate this historic movement.

IU Cinema presents The Freedom Riders (2010) on Friday, April 1st at 7:00 pm.  Filmmaker Stanley Nelson will be present.

The Mississippi Museum of Art presents Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Freedom Riders, an exhibition which documents the men and women whose bravery challenged racial injustice in 1961. The fifty-four foot long installation is composed of sixteen contemporary portraits of the Freedom Riders taken by Mississippi-native Eric Etheridge, along with prints of the original 330 mug shots of those arrested. The exhibition is on view March 19 – June 12, 2011.

The RETURN OF THE FREEDOM RIDERS will host an historic, national gathering to welcome, honor and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides, marking a pivotal point in the evolution of the civil rights movement. For the past two years the people of Mississippi have been planning this unique experience of programs, ceremonies, visits, exhibits, oral histories, and education and training forums. Over 100 Freedom Riders and their families will travel to Mississippi to reunite with their colleagues and tell their compelling stories about the struggle to eradicate racial segregation in interstate travel that changed the course of American history. Youth and adults are invited to take part in the inspiring series of events that will take them to historically black colleges; Parchman Penitentiary, where Freedom Riders were imprisoned; the Fannie Lou Hamer Memorial; the site of Emmett Till’s fateful encounter; houses of worship; community-based organizations; and civil rights legacy destinations.

In Chicago, the Freedom Riders 50th Anniversary Conference and Reunion is being organized by a committee of the Riders themselves. The three and a half day conference and reunion will be held in Chicago.  The conference and reunion will be an occasion to clarify our history, to socialize and enjoy each others company, and to address current issues of continuing injustices and inequalities, particularly in the state of Mississippi.

University of Mary Washington will hold film, lecture, exhibit, and debate events to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

2 thoughts on “Freedom Riders: 50th Anniversary

  1. The University of Mary Washington has outdoor and indoor exhibits. You can see the Freedom Riders bus exhibit in a short video here:
    Congressmen John Lewis and Bob Filner, both Freedom Riders, will deliver the commencement addresses at UMW’s graduate and undergraduate ceremonies in May.

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