Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Freedom Riders

Stanley Nelson, Jr.'s Freedom Riders (2010) does excellent work bringing the Freedom Rides of 1961 -- and the harsh resistance to them -- into perspective and full, open view. Drawing from the work of Raymond Arsnenault and others, Freedom Riders weaves throughout the tales of several key players -- Freedom Riders, other civil rights leaders, politicians and officials with different perspectives, witnesses and Good Samaritans. Like the Freedom Rides themselves, Nelson's documentary starts out smoothly and then picks up momentum, driving right into the brutal resistance of white segregationists in Alabama and Mississippi. 

At about two hours, Freedom Riders (PBS, American Experience) takes us on a mesmerizing and sometimes horrific journey through fresh, still resonant American history.

The music is gripping, too. I was delighted to hear in the background (near the end of the film) Detroit-born Barbara Dane's version of "I'm On My Way," which is a very cool one, indeed, as are various other interpretations of this great traditional gospel song, usually referred to in full as "I'm On My Way (and I Won't Turn Back)." Check out, for instance, recorded performances by Odetta, The Carter Family,* Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone and Mavis Staples.

Full disclosure: I'll be co-discussing Freedom Riders at a local college next week. Glad I watched the film ahead of time, certainly. 

Today's Rune: Fertility.

*"I'm On My Way To Canaan's Land," by Alvin "A. P." Carter.


Charles Gramlich said...

We just had a convocation dedicated to the Freedom Riders. students put on a great play.

jodi said...

I'll watch for this one Erik! We are lucky enough to never have known a lack of freedom!