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Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 02/ 8/2011

Freedom Riders remember events of 50 years ago

By Jacqueline Trescott

A Greyhound bus burning outside Anniston, Alabama, May 14, 1961. (National Museum of American History)

On May 4, 1961 the first Freedom Ride left Washington.

In that spring and summer, more than 400 men and women showed tremendous courage by challenging the Jim Crow laws in interstate travel, making their way from the capital to New Orleans.

On Tuesday a few of those who risked their lives to change the country will speak at the National Museum of American History. Diane Nash, Jim Zwerg and Rev. James Lawson will talk about what they did 50 years ago, the philosophy of non-violence, and their place in history.

Their goal was to end segregation on interstate buses and trains and in the restrooms, restaurants and waiting rooms in those terminals. This interracial movement captured the country's attention as the buses were burned and the young protesters severely beaten and jailed.

At 6 p.m. a preview of the documentary, "Freedom Riders" will be show at the museum, followed by a panel discussion. Stanley Nelson, the filmmaker and scholar Raymond Arsenault will join Nash, Zwerg and Lawson. This event is free and open to the public.

Earlier in the day, the movement's veterans, along with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), will hold a summit for middle and high school students. There will be a broadcast for students across the country, who will assemble at five Smithsonian Affiliate Museums. A webcast is also available through

The American History museum is sponsoring the programs with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and "American Experience," a PBS program produced by WGBH in Boston.

By Jacqueline Trescott  | February 8, 2011; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott, Museums, Smithsonian  | Tags:  50th Anniversary of Freedom Rides, Diane Nash, Freedom Rides, James Lawson, Jim Zwerg, National Museum of American History, Rep. John Lewis, Smithsonian Institution  
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