American Experience: Freedom Riders

About This Episode


Threatened. Attacked. Jailed. From May until November 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives — with many enduring 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, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism.

Based on Raymond Arsenault's book, "Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice," American Experience's Freedom Riders is the powerful, harrowing and inspirational story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists who challenged segregation in the American South. The first feature-length film about these activists features testimony from a cast of central characters: the Riders themselves, state and federal government officials, and journalists who witnessed the Rides firsthand.