© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Raymond Arsenault Traces Freedom Riders' Road

In 1961, an integrated group of self-proclaimed "Freedom Riders" challenged segregation by riding together on segregated buses through the Deep South. They demanded unrestricted access to the buses — as well as to terminal restaurants and waiting rooms — but pledged nonviolence.

Despite being backed by recent federal rulings declaring it unconstitutional to segregate bus riders, the Freedom Riders met with obstinate resistance, even by hatred and violence — as in Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala, where white supremacists attacked bus depots themselves. Local police often refused to intervene, but still the Freedom Riders kept to their pledge of nonviolence — and their efforts transformed the civil rights movement.

Historian Raymond Arsenault documents their journey in Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, detailing how the first Freedom Rides developed, from the personal level to the legal maneuvering involved. His narrative touches on elements from the jails of Alabama to the Kennedy White House. The book is now out in paperback.

Arsenault is the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, and co-director of the university's Florida Studies Program. His previous books include Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida and Crucible of Liberty: 200 Years of the Bill of Rights, which he edited. Rebroadcast from January 11, 2006.

Copyright 2023 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.