Press Releases

Former Freedom Riders to Discuss Film on Bus Integration Nov. 12 at Unitarian Church

SUMMIT, NJ -  A program featuring Freedom Riders, the powerful documentary on how hundreds of black and white Americans successfully integrated interstate bus lines 50 years ago, will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 12, at The Unitarian Church in Summit, 4 Waldron Avenue (at Springfield Avenue).  Admission is free, and the public is warmly invited.  Refreshments will be served beginning at 6:30 p.m., when the doors open.
           
The evening, sponsored by the church’s Racial Justice Task Force, will include excerpts from the prize-winning, two-hour film by director Stanley Nelson that focuses on the non-violent movement in 1961 to challenge segregation on Greyhound and other bus lines in the Deep South. 
           
Two former Freedom Riders, Francis and Laura Randall of New York City, will share memories of their bus trip in June 1961 from Washington to St. Petersburg, Florida.  The task force would welcome the presence of other veteran Freedom Riders and Civil Rights activists from the 1960s who might live in the Summit area.
           
Beginning in May 1961, despite U. S. Supreme Court decisions outlawing segregated facilities, more than 400 black and white college students and adults risked their lives by simply traveling together on buses and trains.  Racist mobs met the buses in city after city, and law enforcement officials failed to protect the protesters.  Many of the participants suffered savage beatings and even imprisonment in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman penitentiary.  After six months of protests, the Interstate Commerce Commission outlawed discriminatory seating practices on interstate buses and ordered the removal of "whites only" signs from bus stations.  Pockets of racist resistance persisted for several years, but by 1962 the signs came down. 
           
Besides archival footage, the movie features current-day interviews with Freedom Riders, journalists, government officials and ordinary people involved in the stand-off half a century ago.  The documentary was an official selection in 2010 at the Sundance, Full Frame and AFI Discovery Channel Silverdocs film festivals.

For more information about the event, visit the church’s website, www.ucsummit.org or call (908) 273-3245.

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