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Freedom Riders

March 18, 2015 – April 15, 2015

The Freedom Riders were men and women of both races who challenged the mores of a racially segregated society by performing a simple act — traveling together in small interracial groups and sitting where they pleased on buses.

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Demanding unrestricted access to terminal restaurants and waiting rooms, they were met with bitter racism, mob violence, and imprisonment along the way. But their courage and sacrifice over eight months in 1961 changed America forever.

Freedom Riders is a traveling exhibition developed by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in partnership with AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. Major funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Freedom Riders, men and women spanning all walks of American life, embarked on a mission that deliberately violated Jim Crow laws and tested their belief in nonviolent activism.

Further Your Understanding Of The Civil Rights Movement

Freedom Rider: The Life of a Foot Soldier for Civil Rights
Thomas Armstrong spoke about his extraordinary experiences as a veteran Civil Rights activist in Mississippi during the 1960’s.

Armstrong, a native of Silver Creek, Mississippi, was at the forefront of early protests led by black Southerners for voting rights and later became an influential activist in the Freedom Riders movement.

Armstrong spoke about his childhood influences, discovering what it meant to live in a segregated world, and his decision to actively work towards building a better future.

Catholics, Race, and the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago
Dr. Karen Johnson, a 20th Century U.S. race and religion historian and professor at Wheaton College, talked about her research into Chicago Catholics and the Civil Rights Movement. In 1930s Chicago, Catholic support for civil rights seemed a slim possibility. Dr. Johnson spoke at length about Peggy Roach and Catherine de Hueck and their influence in Chicago’s Catholic support of Civil Rights.