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  • American Experience: Freedom Riders
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American Experience: Freedom Riders

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Frequently Bought Together

American Experience: Freedom Riders + Eyes on The Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 + American Experience: Freedom Summer
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Product Details

  • Directors: Stanley Nelson
  • Writers: Stanley Nelson, Tess Gadwa, Max George
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: May 17, 2011
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004AR4VRW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,026 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

From May until December 1961, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives many endured savage beatings and imprisonment for simply traveling together on buses as they journeyed through the Deep South. Determined to test and challenge segregated travel facilities, the Freedom Riders were greeted with mob violence and bitter racism, sorely testing their belief in non-violent activism. From award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, Freedom Riders features testimony from a fascinating cast of central characters; the Riders themselves, state and federal government officials, and journalists who witnessed the rides firsthand. Based on Raymond Arsenault s acclaimed book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, the two-hour documentary comes to PBS in May 2011, marking the 50th anniversary of the historic Rides.

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars
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See all 53 customer reviews
One of the best I've ever seen.
History is always a great lesson, and this documentary gives you a lot to learn and think about.
Rose Woods
For this they were beaten, jailed, and sent to Mississippi's notorious Parchman prison.
Just Leigh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By David Crumm on May 20, 2011
Format: DVD
For more than 30 years, I've been a journalist covering cross-cultural issues in America. I've reported from across the U.S. and often, over the years, have reported on the legacy of the civil rights era. With all that background in my own work, I was startled by details, insights, archival photos and fresh interviews collected in this gripping documentary.

The filmmakers' painstaking care in matching archival images with narratives from people who personally recall the events is startling--right down to a desperately needed glass of water placed into the hands of a Freedom Rider gasping from the smoke in her burned-out bus. These are the details that underline the accuracy of this dramatic account of the Freedom Rides--and, accumulated across the two hours of this documentary, they allow our spirits to soar with these young heroes on the buses. This is not Hollywood hype. This is hard-edged journalism documenting their real-life story.

You will be surprised as you watch this film. There are revelations here about the Kennedy brothers' ambivalence toward civil rights and about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s own attitude toward the young activists. The faces will stir you: Hateful faces in high-resolution images will shock you, but the calm determination of the young Freedom Riders themselves will move you in a hopeful way.

There are oceans of video about the civil rights era. As a journalist who has covered many of these enduring issues over the years, I can tell you: This is a must-see film reported in amazing detail.
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful By mpls matt on May 16, 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I just saw this documentary on PBS here in mpls. This needs to be on every Americans must see bucket list for films!!! The imagery and the raw emotion of those who are interviewed will leave you breathless. The Freedom Riders story should never be forgotten. In this day we throw the word "hero" around a lot, find out what a true American hero is. WATCH THIS FILM!!!!!!!!!!!
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By X. Pert on May 17, 2011
Format: DVD
Freedom Riders is a powerful movie about a significant, nation-changing moment in the United States. It documents a six-month period in 1961 during which brave, determined Black and White university students, travelling together by bus from Washington, D.C., into the deep south, confronted southern segregation at great personal risk and injury. What started as a small group of about two dozen university students turned into a national movement involving several hundred students from across the country. Their experiences were broadcast throughout the nation and the world and forced the federal government to confront segregation in a way that it (the government) really didn't want to. The material is well researched and well presented. It includes film clips from newscasts and home movies of the time, current and recent interviews with participants, their supporters, their opponents and government officials, and even a Greyhound bus commercial. The film doesn't sugarcoat the story, but transmits the tension and drama, and even moments of humor, to the viewer. While many will be familiar with the general story of the Freedom Riders, I don't doubt that the film contains details that will be new to almost everyone, if not to absolutely everyone. As a document of one of the major blows to segregation, this is a film that should be seen by everyone, and won't easily be forgotten.
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Format: DVD
If you missed this two-hour documentary that aired on PBS earlier this month as part of the American Experience series, I urge you to catch the DVD version now available. A copy also belongs in every public and school library as this superbly done film covers - and does NOT sugarcoat - this important event. (Be aware that the "N" word is not edited out from archival footage, so it might be advisable for parents to share the viewing of it with young children.)

It's hard for me to believe that it was only 50 years ago this month that near-complete segregation still existed in the U.S. Though the Supreme Court decided in the Brown v. Board of Education case that integration was now the law, in much of the South buses and lunch counters were still "separate" for "whites" and "coloreds" . It was in the Spring of 1961 that CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) organized a volunteer group of both black and white individuals to ride together on two separate buses (one Greyhound; the other Trailways) from Washington, DC to New Orleans. The first half of this film concentrates on that ride, melding archival footage (some amazing film!) with new interviews with those involved - most in their 70s now. We hear from the "Riders" as well as onlookers like Janie Forsyth McKinney, who was only 12 years old when one of the buses was torched in front of her parents' store. With tears in her eyes, she describes how she tried to help the injured in any way possible.

When the CORE "ride" was finally canceled (it was a no-win at that point), the task was taken over by the Nashville Student Movement, which is covered in the later part of the film.

Even if you think you remember what occurred - by reading the newspapers - you will discover new facts by watching the film.
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