by Kimberly Stietz, Law Clerk, Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel, U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota; Program Committee Co-Chair, ACS Minneapolis-St. Paul Lawyer Chapter
On June 6, the the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota honored Freedom Riders from the state and marked the beginning of the traveling “Freedom Riders” exhibition that will be on display for two weeks in the Minneapolis U.S. Courthouse lobby. The exhibition examines six months in 1961 when more than 400 courageous Americans—old and young, black and white, men and women, Northern and Southern—risked their lives to challenge segregated facilities in the South. “In 1961, seven ordinary Minnesotans—including Robert Baum, Clare O’Connor, Dave Morton and Peter Ackerberg—took an extraordinary bus ride to Jackson, Mississippi, and in the process changed the course of American History forever,” said Magistrate Judge Franklin L. Noel.
The Freedom Riders had a simple but daring plan: board buses in small, interracial groups and travel through the South to test and challenge segregated facilities. Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) served as the keynote speaker for the event and noted that the actions taken by the Freedom Riders were as innovative in the 1960s as social media campaigns that inspire revolutions like the Arab Spring are today. “We must be creative and break free from traditional methods of activism to realize contemporary civil rights goals related to immigration, voting rights, minimum wage and more,” Ellison said.
The Freedom Riders endured savage beatings, humiliation, and imprisonment, but ultimately, their brave actions changed American forever. The exhibition combines powerful images and news coverage of the Freedom Rides and examines the movement from diverse perspectives. The exhibition is a companion to the May 2011 PBS Broadcast of the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE film Freedom Riders.
“The District Court is pleased to host this powerful and inspirational exhibition,” said Chief Judge Michael J. Davis. “People of all walks of life will be able to learn about the bravery of the Freedom Riders to secure the constitutional rights of all citizens. These are people who faced grave danger, who changed the face of America, and we are more than happy and extremely proud to highlight their legacy.”