From May until November 1961, more than 400 diverse and committed Americans rode south together on buses and trains, putting their bodies and freedom on the line to challenge the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial injustice and inequality in public transportation. The Freedom Rides changed the Civil Rights Movement and demonstrated the power of individual action to change the nation.
On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, 12:00-1:15PM EST, middle and high school students across the country will join together electronically for a National Youth Summit on the Freedom Rides and activism at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Freedom Rides veterans Congressman John Lewis, D-GA, Diane Nash, Jim Zwerg, and Reverend James Lawson will share how they became involved in the Freedom Rides and how their lives were affected by them. They will join filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Freedom Riders) and scholar Raymond Arsenault to discuss the meaning of the Freedom Rides and the role of young people in shaping America’s past and future.
The discussion in Washington will be joined by five audiences at Smithsonian Affiliate museums around the nation as well as by registered viewers of the webcast. The Affiliates’ programs will be augmented by a discussion guide produced by the National Museum of American History. Each Affiliate will welcome a veteran Freedom Rider to their museums to participate in the discussion and coordinate with local schools to engage students.
The Affiliate museums and their legendary Freedom Riders are:
- National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, Ohio) will welcome Thomas Armstrong.
- Senator John Heinz History Center (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) will welcome Joan C. Browning and Winston Fuller.
- Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Alabama) will welcome Catherine Brooks Burks.
- Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, California) will welcome Helen Singleton and Robert Singleton.
- The Arab American National Museum (Dearborn, Michigan) will welcome Gordon Negen.
Students will be encouraged to participate in the discussion through the National Museum of American History’s email, Facebook, Twitter, and the conference portal, and will be asked to think about themselves as makers of history.
Registration is free, and will include access to preparatory classroom materials, film clips, follow-up materials, and technical assistance. Register today!
The National Youth Summit is presented by the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, in collaboration with Smithsonian Affiliations and American Experience/WGBH.