May 18, 2011
Last evening my wife and I watched the American Experience TV production of the Freedom Riders. Living in Auburn, Alabama at the time and reviewing the violent events at nearby Anniston, Birmingham, and Montgomery fifty years later is very evocative for me. My retrospective Shaped By History p. 4-5 included in this website describes the impact of the Freedom Rides on the white population of Auburn and myself as well. Freedom Rider John Lewis (U.S. Congressman) states the Riders were deliberately violating segregation laws determined “that freedom come to the deep South – (where segregationist whites were) blind to the reality of racism and afraid of change.” President Kennedy spoke for freedom for the whole world but not the segregated South. Political concerns won’t tolerate integration. Question: would Freedom Riders lead Kennedy to protect Freedom Riders’ rights. The violence that spring and summer ultimately lead Robert Kennedy (attorney general) to have the Interstate Commerce Commission order desegregation in all interstate commerce. Today many of the places where violence happened are museums. Indicates to me the importance of taking a long-ranged view of reform and the redemptive nature of the American Reform Tradition.