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National Documentary to Feature Local Civil Rights Activist
Local Film Screening, Discussion Set for April 2 in Carbondale

For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 24, 2011

Contact: Vickie Devenport, Outreach Coordinator, WSIU Public Broadcasting, (618) 453-6148,

Carbondale, Ill. – In 1961, over 400 black and white Americans risked injury, incarceration, and death when they traveled together on buses and trains through the Deep South to protest segregation and Jim Crow laws. Freedom Riders, a new two-hour documentary from the PBS series American Experience, will tell the inspirational story of these brave activists, including the experiences of original Freedom Riders Tom Armstrong of Chicago and Genevieve Houghton of Carbondale.

WSIU Public Broadcasting, the public media arm of Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), along with co-sponsors the Illinois Humanities Council, the African American Museum of Southern Illinois, and the Varsity Center for the Arts will present a preview screening of the film, followed by a discussion and Q & A with Armstrong and Houghton, on Saturday, April 2 from 3-6pm. The event will be held at the Varsity Center for the Arts, located at 418 South Illinois in Carbondale. A reception hosted by the African American Museum of Southern Illinois will follow.

The Illinois Humanities Council is one of several national partners for the film. The IHC is creating statewide programming around Freedom Riders, including screenings for students and the public, and a festival featuring original performances honoring the Freedom Rides. Visit the IHC website at for more information.

WSIU-TV 8 and WUSI-TV 16 will broadcast American Experience: Freedom Riders on Monday, May 16 at 8pm.


About the Film
In 1961, segregation seemed to have an overwhelming grip on American society. Many states violently enforced the policy, while the federal government, under the Kennedy administration, remained indifferent, preoccupied with matters abroad. That is, until an integrated band of college students – many of whom were the first in their families to attend a university – decided, en masse, to risk everything and buy a ticket on a Greyhound bus bound for the Deep South. They called themselves the Freedom Riders, and they managed to bring the president and the entire American public face to face with the challenge of correcting civil-rights inequities that plagued the nation.

American Experience: Freedom Riders from filmmaker Stanley Nelson is the first feature-length film about this courageous band of civil-rights activists. Gaining impressive access to influential figures on both sides of the issue, Nelson chronicles a chapter of American history that stands as an astonishing testament to the accomplishment of youth and what can result from the combination of personal conviction and the courage to organize against all odds.


About WSIU
WSIU Public Broadcasting is licensed to the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University and is an integral part of the College of Mass Communication & Media Arts on the Carbondale campus. The WSIU stations reach more than three million people across five states and beyond through three digital public television channels, three public radio stations, a radio information service, a website, and an education and community outreach department.

WSIU's mission is to improve the quality of life of the people they serve. The WSIU stations partner with other community organizations to promote positive change and to support the academic and public service missions of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Learn more and get the latest station news online at and on WSIU's Facebook and Twitter pages.

WSIU's programs and services are partially funded by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

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