The documentary film Freedom Riders is the harrowing, inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America. From May to November, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives—and many endured savage beatings and imprisonment—by traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the deep South.
This site supports the powerful film, that premiered on May 16 2011, and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides and the group’s historic role in the American Civil Rights movement. Working within PBS guidelines it presents an enormous amount of data in a comprehensive and easy to digest way. It’s an educational resource with biographies, essays and clips that were not included in the final film, as well as interactives (an animation of the riders and a timeline of events surrounding the rides), short films and the blog from the 2011 Student Freedom Ride.
• Conceptual work for the site began when the search for film’s funding started a few years ago; the site was in earnest development for six months prior to launch.
• Original content for the site included all of the biographies in the “People” section, as well as ten original essays on topics such as Jim Crow Laws, the Cold War and the political climate of the South in the early 1960s.
• In addition to the main film, the site has 12 additional short films, more than 30 video interviews and commentaries and over 500 searchable historical photos and includes the only complete online roster of all 400 Freedom Riders.
• The site’s received 945,000 page views since its launch in late October and in December more than 1,000 online applications were received for the 40 spots on the Student Freedom Ride. Since launch, the average time spent on the video page was four times the American Experience average.