I’m really looking forward to this documentary…
As usual, a great column from Leonard Pitts:
WASHINGTON — Fifty years later.
This morning, if all goes according to plan, a group of college students will board a bus here, bound for New Orleans. The young people in the group represent diverse heritages — a Mexican-American guy born in Yucatan, a white girl from Santa Monica, a black girl studying journalism in Tallahassee. The fact of them traveling together will be unremarkable.
Fifty years ago.
A group of college students boarded two buses here, bound for New Orleans. They were joined by members of the African-American press, and officials of the Congress of Racial Equality, including its national director, James Farmer, who had organized the journey. Six of the riders were white, 12, black. The fact of their traveling together would prove incendiary.
Fifty years later.
There will be 40 students on this commemorative ride, chosen from more than a thousand applicants. They will spend a little over a week rolling across an America vastly different from the America of 1961. In the new America, mom ‘n’ pop have gone out of business, driven into retirement by Subway and Wal-Mart, telephones are portable, computers are ubiquitous and the son of an African from Kenya is president of the United States.
The students are traveling in part to publicize Freedom Riders, a documentary that will air on PBS’ American Experience program beginning May 16. They will go where a bus was burned, people were beaten and the guilty imprisoned the innocent. They will share the journey with many of the original Freedom Riders, men and women now well into their 70s and 80s, and absorb lessons in the nonviolent tactics and philosophies that helped make the old America into the new.
You wonder what that will be like. It is always difficult for young people to imagine old people young, to look upon aged faces and experienced eyes and glimpse there any kinship of spirit or reflection of themselves. It is perhaps more difficult, having come of age in the new America, to envision the old, to gaze upon a landscape of Subways and Wal-Marts and see just beneath it the ghost of the Eat-A-Bite diner or Hardwick’s Hardware, and the metal sign creaking gently in the Dixie breeze, an arrow pointing to the back of the building, beneath the single damning word, Colored.