Dr. Ray Arsenault Will Speak on Historic "Freedom Riders" to Recognize Black History Month

Jan. 31, 2011

Follow us on Twitter: @BaylorUMediaCom

It is difficult to imagine a world where a simple bus ride is a dangerous act of defiance.

But in the 1960s, the American Civil Rights Movement was legitimized by "freedom riders" - activists who rode public transportation to protest the Jim Crow laws.

Dr. Ray Arsenault, John Hope Franklin professor of Southern history and co-director of the Florida Studies Program at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, Fla., will give this year's annual Black History Month lecture at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, in room 120 in Morrison Hall.

His lecture, titled "The Freedom Riders," will address the importance of this annual tradition and give insight into the historical "freedom rides."

His lecture is sponsored by the department of history and coordinated through the Organization of American Historians' Distinguished Lecturers Series.

"Our goal is to engage members of the Baylor and Waco communities in understanding this historic moment in the African-American freedom struggle," said Dr. James SoRelle, professor of history and director of undergraduate studies.

The "freedom rides" coincided with college student sit-ins that spread throughout a segregated south in the 1960s. They were specifically designed to test the enforcement of a United States Supreme Court decision (Boynton v. Virginia-1960) that prohibited segregated waiting rooms, restrooms and restaurants in interstate bus and train depots.

More than 60 interracial teams of "freedom riders" challenged Jim Crow transportation across the South and were arrested and imprisoned by Southern law enforcement officials who refused to comply with the Supreme Court's mandate.

Arsenault is the author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Oxford University Press, 2006) which received the Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Award from the Southern Historical Association.

Along with his lecture, Dr. Arsenault also will preview and comment upon clips from an upcoming PBS documentary on the Freedom Riders.

Nationally, the Black History Month celebration dates back to 1925, when African-American historian Carter G. Woodson established what was originally known as Negro History Week as a means to emphasize the contributions of blacks to American society.

The event is open to the public and free of charge.

For more information, contact Kelley Kimple at 254-710-6949.

Morrison Hall is at 1410 S. Fifth St.

by Susie Typher, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

Looking for more news from Baylor University?