The Freedom Riders film is an extraordinary piece of footage documenting the civil rights events that occurred throughout South in 1961. The Freedom Riders’ goal was to end segregation in public establishments and transportation throughout America. They planned on traveling from Washington D.C. to New Orleans on public buses challenging racism in a non-violent fashion. Despite the rider’s peaceful intentions, they were greeted by hostility by White citizens and police officials. The Freedom Riders group received funding by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and even had Martin Luther King Jr. as a supporter.
The original group of riders included many young college students from Fisk University who gave up their education in order to support the non-violent fight against racism. The riders’ strategy was extremely effective at gaining attention from the federal government. The violence that occurred against these young minorities helped illustrate the atrocities taking place in our nation, and called for the immediate action by President Kennedy. Our current society has benefited from the sacrifices that the Freedom Riders made and I believe that the non-violence philosophy can still be an effective method to address today’s challenges.
In 1961, the federal law was constantly ignored by many American establishments. Blacks were refused service and forced to segregate themselves from White citizens. The Freedom Riders were so effective because the violent actions taken against them were covered by the national media. During these brutal attacks that mainly took place at bus stations, the entire world was witness to prejudice and bigotry that existed in the “Land of the Free.” The images of young college students being beaten and almost burned alive undeniably illustrated how unjust minorities were being treated. Although harsh treatment towards Blacks was common during this time, the images, newspaper articles, videos and interviews of the Freedom Riders magnified how out of control the issue of segregation and racism had become in America.
Another main reason for the Freedom Riders effectiveness was their devotion and dedication to make a positive change within society. Individuals like Diane Nash were willing to sacrifice their lives for the civil and social rights of all minorities. Despite the constant violence and horrible treatment, the Fisk students were determined to continue their mission. Even the threat of being locked in prison was unable to stop the momentum that the Freedom Riders had created. I imagine it would be more difficult for college students in our current society to give up so much for a cause they believe in. Racism and prejudice has decreased dramatically since the 1960s, however there are certain civil and social injustices that people deal with in our existing society.
Gay rights and women’s health issues are two controversial topics within our current society. Many homosexual individuals are ridiculed, beaten and sometimes killed all because of their sexual orientation. This prejudice and intolerance cannot be accepted in our society or by our government. This is the same type of unprovoked violence that the Freedom Riders were forced to endure in 1961. Abortion is another major issue that has America divided. Many feel the government should step in and make it illegal, others believe it is a woman’s choice weather or not to have a child. Both of these issues affect an individual’s personal rights on a daily basis and many people are suffering because of our current laws that are in place. If a change is desired by a certain group of people they must deploy similar tactics as the Freedom Riders. National media coverage, dedicated volunteers and an overall positive message or desired outcome is necessary for any change to occur within our society.