This week Wednesday, May 4th, was the fiftieth anniversary of The Freedom Riders.  Four hundred black and white youth traveled together in defiance of the Southern segregated travel system.  My wife and I attended  a lecture (3-3-07) sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society titled “Organizing Freedom:  The Freedom Riders.”   The lecture stimulated  my writing  a retrospective on “what I already understood, namely, major themes in my teaching of American history were shaped by personal experiences”  living in Auburn Alabama  between 1959 and 1961. Memories of this experience led to writing  Shaped By History.   The introduction to that personal retrospective  also included in this website stated:  “Living in the deep South during the Civil Rights Revolution. Learning to distinguish between American Ideal and American Reality.  A historian’s reflections of personal experiences in developing and teaching African-American and Women’s American history.”   A Freedom Rider stated this week:  “Freedom has to be won over and over.”   I closed my personal retrospective on an optimistic note:  “Study of American history has shown the redemptive nature of American reform tradition urging American reality to reflect more clearly American idealism.”   The struggle for perfecting American idealism  continues and should reflect the American Reform tradition.

Published by profbartling1

Retired professor Concordia University, St. Paul, Mn. Taught mainly American History. Also taught in other areas of history, philosophy, and theology,


  1. Anastasia – Yesterday’s Star Tribune had this headline: “Support falls for ban on gay marriage.” A majority of Minnesotans 55% vs. 39% oppose amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The article states this is a “sharp reversal of poll results seven years ago.” This indicates for me that this issue is an ongoing shift in attitudes in tune with the gender and race issue reforms of the Sixties and subsequent decades. The American Reform Tradition grows out of the ideals in the Declaration of Independence, the Elightenment faith in reason, and the urge that American reality reflect more closely American idealism. The social, political, and religious tradition in America is to reform itself.

  2. There is so much being written in the newspaper about the Freedom Riders as of late. So, do you think that America still has a reform tradition and is it something that it still has value? It seems there is so much polarization in politics and the possiblitiy for reform has a a sliver of a chance. When was the last best reform? Just asking.

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