Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Archive for the ‘ Locations ’ Category

Day 3: Dispatch from Ray Arsenault

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Historian Ray Arsenault, author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, writes from the bus of the 2011 Student Freedom Ride.

Day 3–May 10: Charlotte, NC, to Augusta, GA

We started the day with a breakfast meeting at a black Pentecostal church in West Charlotte. The students had the chance to sit with local civil rights activists such as former Freedom Rider Charles Jones, who gave another inspirational “blessing” that included rousing freedom songs. The next stop, a few blocks away, was West Charlotte High School, an important site in the school desegregation saga in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Since our freedom bus was temporarily out of commission (the AC was being fixed), we drove up in a red, doubled-decker, London-style “party bus.” Some of the kids rushed out to greet us, perplexing the school security guards, who weren’t expecting a freedom ride on their doorstep. West Charlotte High, once a model of racial integration and educational improvement, has fallen on hard times, the victim of resegregation and neglect since the mid-1990s.

On to Rock Hill, SC, the birthplace of “jail-no bail” in February 1961 and the home of the courageous Friendship Nine, arrested in 1961. Five of the nine joined us for an emotional lunch at a recently refurbished McCrory’s, site of the famous 1961 sit-in. Andrea Barnett, a black special-ed teacher from Charlotte, who recently completed a 3,000 mile Freedom Ride (designed to instill self-confidence in her students) on her motorcycle, accompanied by her white boyfriend, from DC to New Orleans and back to Charlotte, was on hand to sing a beautiful and moving folk song (that she wrote) dedicated to the Freedom Riders. Also on hand was a Catholic priest, Father Boone, who has been in Rock Hill for 52 years, much of the time a lone local white voice preaching racial tolerance and justice. It was quite a scene. As we drove off across South Carolina to Augusta, GA, there were more than a few tear-stained faces on the (mercifully) retooled, air-cooled freedom bus. On to Atlanta and Anniston this morning.

Images from Day 2

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Reverend Charles Jones

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Images from Day 1

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Day 3: American Roadway One

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

By Davy Knittle

The dinosaur roamer
of an interstate system

American carousel access
to its breakaway points
emptied by the impulse
of its own travel

Jeff Davis highway and
the road to Richmond
flooded with electric cars, maybe

or becoming that land
made flat by its unreflected lights

No span is a highway island,
a glow that’s always on

The great drive an analog that
took no original account for wear

In the roadway, going –
some pools of weight on the trees
their shadows as a pull
to the highway shoulder

Their output points, 8:30 light
over the throw of construction

The highway the outcut center, then
of the base state of forest
of the specific tack of the land

The road a sphere outracing its radius
rewriting its everywhere center
over a fenceline, a raceway
a telephone tower archived between sets
the fixed start, and over again,
of a ceaseless region

This poem speaks to a number of questions that have dictated how I’ve seen the first days of the ride, about the physicality of what landscape we’re seeing, as compared to what the original riders saw. In many ways, the original Freedom Rides were an ideal enactment of some fragments of the American Dream. A roadtrip in the pursuit of civil rights speaks to both an idealized American freedom of action and a freedom of movement, by means of the interstate highway. It makes sense, given how roads and roadway automotive travel have figured into the American 20th century narrative of American exceptionalism and the enactment of autonomous American identity that one of the first crucial acts of the Civil Rights Movement was focused on interstate travel legislation. That to be American was, before almost anything else, to be able to travel on the roads.

With this in mind, I’ve been struck both by how extreme American urban desolation looks – how filled with vacant buildings the cities of Petersburg, Virginia and High Point, North Carolina are, and by how much of the American landscape stretches out along two and four lane commercial roads that fit the same nationally-prevalent businesses into the landscape. What does it mean for us to be undergoing this driving trip? In 50 more years, who will be on the roads? What will become of the roads, and of the people who need the roads to move around their home radii, when that kind of driving becomes untenable? What kind of an America will we have as a result? How does the change that will necessarily happen in the great automotively-bound majority of the country suggest or signal what other kinds of American change could look like? Who will we be, as Americans, when we are no longer a nation of drivers?

Day 2: “We have not finished the job of making our country whole.” – James Farmer

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Lu-Anne Haukaas Lopez

We walked past the man under the padding. Walked past the bench bed, the carpet coverlet. We walked past singing, cheering. We were the Freedom Riders, and he had picked the wrong corner to sleep on, the wrong bench to wake on. This morning would be no different for him — rousing to the roll and rush of traffic, the glow and gold of a D.C. morning sun. No different except for the sea of hope and faces, the force and click of cameras, the rise and ring of Ray’s story telling voice — the voices, our voices, the singing. We walked past him and drove away. The South was waiting. Celebration 50 years in the making was waiting. But I couldn’t help wonder as we left him, his bench bed, his carpeted curb: What about him? What about them? What about us?

Our days are filled with the gild and glory of the sacrifices of the past. No bars, no blows for us — the greatest discomfort is getting Wifi to work on the bus. Tonight I sit typing this, propped on my hotel bed, stacks of white towels at its foot. In our capital, he’s finding a bench. He’s pulling a carpet over his head. No songs, no freedom. In our capital, he sleeps.

Rock Hill News

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

‘American Experience’ Freedom Ride to Stop in Rock Hill
by Culture & Heritage Museums News Release

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Rock Hill has been selected as a stop on May 10 for the 10-day 2011 Student Freedom Ride, memorializing the 50th anniversary of the May 1961 Freedom Rides.

The Culture & Heritage Museums and Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte have coordinated the events in our area. Read more…