Inspired by Freedom Riders

Earlier today, the Arab American National Museum participated in the National Youth Summit held at the National Museum of American History to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides. The AANM was one of five Smithsonian Affiliate sites that hosted a regional town hall discussion in conjunction with the event. The other sites included The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama; The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio; Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California.

The regional town hall at the AANM brought together four local schools and two veterans of the Freedom Rides. Prior to their visit to the Museum, the students watched advance copies of the new documentary Freedom Riders by filmmaker Stanley Nelson (American Experience/PBS). Today the students electronically joined others from across the country for the National Youth Summit. Many renowned activists participated in the program and their message of justice and equality through nonviolent protest inspired us all.

Here are some photos I took of the program at the AANM. The pictures show Reverend Richard Gleason on the left and Reverend Gordon Negen on the right. Although their experiences participating in the Freedom Rides were quite different, both shared inspiring and heartfelt stories.

As an aside, you can catch an advance screening of the new documentary tomorrow evening at the AANM. Freedom Riders will not premier on PBS until May. Additionally, we will have a Q&A session following the screening with Reverend Richard Gleason and John Hardy. Be sure to join us!

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