Our class read Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice by historian Raymond Arsenault. The book focuses on the daily challenges that freedom riders faced. It also describes the Greensboro sit-in demonstrations that North Carolina A&T College students organized, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and other facets of the Civil Rights Movement. It inspired me to use my imagination to picture the scenes of violent mobs, non-violent riders, and I asked myself if I could have endured this kind of treatment?
The documentary brought the book to life. To put faces with names and made it more poignant. When you hear the interviews with the participants, you hear the determination to carry on, you see the fear on their faces. The decision to send reporters on the rides was a huge turning point for the movement. Reporters filmed violence and the news broadcast reached people across the world who otherwise would not have known about it. As people saw the violence the Freedom Riders endured, the consciences of many prompted telephone calls to their Congressmen. It all became a moral issue, and more people from all walks of life, all colors, and nationalities decided to join in the fight for equal rights for all. Why should we let this happen to our fellow man; what can we as a people do?
Diane Nash was a young brave college student who led the Freedom Riders, and she refused to back down. As groups of riders were arrested and jailed, more groups stepped in and persevered. To listen to them describe the experiences they encountered was frightening. Being beaten within an inch of their lives, scenes with the dogs attacking children, high pressure fire hoses turned on women and children was more than I could bear to watch. It was frightening and I wondered if I would have been as brave?