Stand up for freedom

Event recalls 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides

Fifty years ago this month, seven black and six white men left Washington, D.C., on two public buses headed toward New Orleans. The U.S. Supreme Court had recently ruled segregation in interstate bus and rail stations unconstitutional, and volunteers set out to challenge segregation in transit systems and interstate travel.

For 10 days of the trip, not much happened. Then, when the volunteers arrived in Anniston, Ala., 200 angry people stoned the bus and slashed the tires. More violence and hardship followed as the volunteers made their way across Alabama and Mississippi and into Louisiana. Over the next few months, more than 400 volunteers integrated buses all over the South, risking violence and arrest. These volunteers came to be known as the Freedom Riders, and their actions galvanized and transformed the civil rights movement.

This Friday and Saturday at the University of Oregon, Stand Up For Freedom! will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. Quintard Taylor, Jr. returns to the UO to discuss "The Civil Rights Movement in the Pacific Northwest, 1950-1970: Seattle and Portland Compared." His lecture will be followed by a screening of “Freedom Riders,” a new documentary, which will be introduced by Emmy-nominated producer Ron Craig.

On Saturday, there will be two movie screenings — “Bridge to Freedom,” (an episode from “Eyes on the Prize”)and “Soundtrack for a Revolution” — followed by a lecture by four-time Emmy Award winner Jon Else and a panel discussion between Quintard Taylor, Jr., Ron Craig, Jon Else, UO alumna Dylan Nelson and Father Gil Avery, who participated in the Prayer Pilgrimage Freedom Ride in September 1961.

Organizers have been reaching out to invite and include local community members “in recognition of the impact the Freedom Rides had, even in far-away places like Oregon,” said Carla Gary, assistant vice president of the Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity.

 The event is free and open to the public. The event has been organized by UO Journalism professor Dan Miller and the Robert Donald Clark Honors College. Additional sponsorship was provided by the President's Office, Academic Affairs, Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, Oregon Humanities Center, Cinema Studies Program, and the departments of English and History.

Rita Radostitz