thumbnail of American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with John Lewis, 1 of 3
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
so is breached and for a few years ago in the fall of nineteen sixty through some of my friends to have been involved in the citizens' initiatives that theyre called the congress to restrict the quality response in something called a freedom ride i knew it was something that i
know i have been alone because i traveled through south messina sciences said white waiting court weighed in white men colored men white women colored women and i wanted to be part of an effort to change you you will get a great pass is about the joy of being accepted one the freedom when i got word that i had been a sector to be part of the freedom riots owes more than excited i wanted to do what actually the rain down all signs of segregation bowl signs all symbols ditto people they could not get a say in a place on a boss lady place on a train that could use any waiting room it in a restroom so i was more than happy i was more than pleased and then a participant in the sit ins in nineteen sixty
oystermen and if it is no one in nineteen sixty one says so the golden fried oh i was a dream come true which it is yeah and that mckown didn't know blogs and what about when you get down to two conflicting loyalties it i was more than half are more than planes when i was a separate line of freedom rides i wanted to do what i could to strike a rule against discrimination and public transportation this was a decision of the united states supreme court that were tested name in discrimination in public transportation i've seen it i've filtered
in shirley falls for years between alabama and in tennessee to school having to move to the back of the bus could use the weekend that i wanted to use the producers from facilities that i wanted to do i want to talk just a little bit about the district is certainly about how it was fought for for a black person back in sixty one to travel you know interstate travel in the city itself how is it to before nineteen sixty one it was not easy for people of color to travel as a man to fight them as very dangerous if you get out of a place and another book people call out a line but you get in the way you could be arrested jailed
beaten maybe even keel i remember all in nineteen sixty a travel home for the christmas holidays with one of us who might be trapped in take a seat right behind it's been great with their return i remember traveling in nineteen sixty nine the christmas holidays with one of my schoolmates i was traveling from nashville to troy alabama about fifty miles south london and he was traveling to tampa florida where we head toward the same bus and was seated together right behind the bus stop and his boss troubled waters to move to the back of
the bus i refuse to he pushes seat back on us to track to squeeze of stoves washers and really get the troika the worse and why classmate continue down the road to florida i know what happened to him believe in one he made it there with that in a problem back in nineteen sixty four sixty one it was tough and it was difficult it was thought the phrase segregation and racial discrimination to us to see those lines this cyclone waving white waiting column and white men colored women white women why why was that so city to see the signs to see the symbol of racism segregation and discrimination was an affront was an edsel
died we had to change it we have to do to change it to make it possible for other people to rhyme with this is a bigoted and with us a surprise as cut and the media on his application form or a row when i applied to be a freedom rider in a full of nineteen sixty i had to write an essay i said in my essay i must sing it at american baptist theological seminary and hope the grocery in june but only the hand freedom riders is much more of a challenge to what i believe in a degree i know that an education is important and i hope to get one this time human dignity is the most important
thing in my life this is most important decision in my whole life to decide to you a sort of necessary for freedom ride that just isn't freedom might come to the deep south you fell of freedom fighter jon our lives it has cut they would use that he would help there's also china also this is part of his wounds so as one and i guess i found time to joke around with his warning to recover some sense something is your memory of getting it to actually go to dc go through this training and then
that first day of the becoming a freedom rider and going on on this bus for the for you know you're getting on the bus for the first time at its now and adam for one of the things that we think about it to sue over that phil is using that song hallelujah i'm sure you know some phil new mayor freedom rider you get a moment but us and you're going to be a three month has arrived in washington dc they both appeared in training and in on the mall and i'm a fourth nineteen sixty one a group of was awarded the ground was to travel for washington dc village in the north carolina and the first major problem and it hasn't occurred in north carolina in charlotte
when a young african american man attempted to get a shoeshine and a so called white waiting room at a so called white barbershop he was arrested and taken to jail and the next day he went to trial and injured dismissed the charges against them we continue to look can't call rocky hillside my stately a white gentleman it is so white we interrupt you and i really don't like the cactus retractable to the goal is the leading us in the first line in the pool above the local police officials i wanted to know that we want to press charges and we said no the next day i laughter i went what what you've used christian women they've been the philosophy and the discipline and nonviolence
we were not protesters against these young white man who protested against the system but it's custom and his tradition we were trying to make it real the decision of the united states supreme court we don't have anything against these young men i'll fight was not with them would guess make it clear that we wanted to sow to live up to the decision will be announced a supreme court and bring down those signs this a white waiting cold waiting an e end discrimination in public transportation ok all right so
as of today and then if you want to get something out time this is the asset road this is where and when you finish in his medium than a pick or won't sell but i applied to go on the freedom rides in nineteen sixty before nineteen sixty the freedom riders goodman from nineteen sixty one made it is i have to write an essay and i don't know that much about to try to write an application i think that i did it in a rear some tall i am a senior at american baptist theological seminary
and hope to raise rates in june but on the other hand the freedom rider is much more of a challenge who would have only been a degree i know that in education is important and i hope to get one but at this time you were depleted is the most important thing in my life is the most important decision in my whole life could decide to yo up all it's necessary to the freedom ride the justice and freedom may come to the deep south and it was sign your fellow freedom fighter jon our lives when i wrote as low as saying i was convinced that i may not return of the woman for and it was a very a dangerous mission to get on a greyhound bus and washington dc a ride into
virginia and north carolina cycle on a georgia alabama into mississippi i never been to most of the flow and i remember on that might rear their last meal a look chinese restaurant in washington dc and we even someone said you must eat well this would be like a less supple the patient it's been leaking you know from from four for four people now young people now and you haven't and inexperience illusion is him so what's the big deal you know he just wants the
biggie and arrived back us what's the biggie a separate bathroom to get back and what's the big deal about why it was so terrible in the city itself for travel from one place to the other interstate buses in nineteen sixty eight wanted annual four nineteen sixty one in a time that you traveled in the deep south and use public transportation deal the bus to ride on a train to walk through a waiting room use on all sides that's a white waiting called waiting white man called men white women called women some places that you're not supposed to because he had to go to the back of the bus and take a seat and have many more white people got on the bus
to move much farther back you take the sea bass for the tobacco as possibly more than anything else was an affront to our self respect to certain dignity was i in so called that we believed in wintry lesson being so we have to stand up and say no as a nation and originals from a nation that list lions as their say in intrastate waving white bowling white people or people of color at the godless a waiting room and this song was stationed with just little hole in the window we can buy a ticket and you have to speak in
this certainly am so cocoa the waiting room every episode these are our allies especially get really want to love about that joint yeah so you know city governments and training a lot about the joy that that we must have felt that first day so as we have pictures of you guys standing in line good moment first bus duty to go to endure for human oh can you feel on the first day is you had a concert on the first day i mean many greyhound bus they chose in order to do so after that i felt happy i felt liberated it was like almost like the first time i got arrested the man who
had been sitting in in mantua lunchtime a feel free i have never traveled asset libya itself was that the ones that travel back all forms south alabama the buffalo and it was someplace that you can stop along the way to get something to eat in canoes arrest her an assault does for the first time in my life but i couldn't do something it in addition to the sit ins in addition to the stand in a defeated the end segregation in public transportation all across the south and never been a washington dc before and never seen humans stays comfortable for what to come to washington dc in may of nineteen sixty one twenty one years though the ball at the greyhound bus
to travel to the south with the possibility of putting my life on the line was some phenomenally i was ready when i was like a soldier i was really serious well throughout non violent training today none of our workshops the jewels waltzes of fear anyone you may have some reservation but some hesitation much of a player their faces blue in in rock hill yet the first time for you of lions coming this is on may ninth nineteen sixty one
when massive great white gentleman named evan ago when connecticut that tool allows was seated together we get all full of the bus and approach a waiting room to sit quite wavy and the moment a story of food and all of the young white man attacked us need us and the first line of a lever to get out local lore foresman innovators came along and said only one a press georgia's and we said no we believe in nonviolence week a separate non violence as a way of life as a way of living we do strike back with a separate bowls castro is not against these young man a struggle against unjust walls and its
customs and traditions when when that when these men have attacked you engage in rock hill that it made you think well you know maybe this isn't going to be so easy and so simple because until that time you're tentative free of violence and you have gone through it all up a portion of the upper south hadley without those ones that reflects changing you think you know what was going to come as we have been attacked in rocky hill and so for the abuse the violence i knew when the apostle and we have too much trouble we had to make it through georgia we had to make a fool of alabama we had an orange mississippi and we had to loan to new orleans some high in some way i felt
it was time to get in a better they're probably going to get worse because alone the way a great many people to know about the freedom ride and so after one incident will occur more people heard about your trigger on an walk the voyager out to la station and observe what was happening and of the second what happened so in a way their business good and bad guys because you know push and pull that happens because now more people know about the fee which is what you walk around the other than you know more white races of the mine you won't after a critical incident such as incident in rock you and by the time we made it to georgia and later in alabama the nation as a whole move out to trigger a you know what happened there and after a summer long story
in an ocean to the entire store but i have a plot of war brought those criteria for an american baptist seminary in june their client with american friends service committee to go to ease africa or india for two years and i had to fly from charlotte north carolina the philadelphia for an interview so i left the freedom ride was supposed to rejoin arrive in london or they never made it among them were the greyhound was that i would've been all it's ok no no word you slice up the
quality to live in a world of porn for us and because they left and felt leaving for you knew that i had to lead the freedom ride i got word fun along the station in philadelphia and i had been a set it and i needed to do a last interview on a physical level of two india only the chinese africa for two years and i was a pause or a john reilly and among them alabama but they never made it to one hundred because of the violence that took place between atlanta and birmingham the people around was doing in iraq is i don't know because that's it won't believe in jail for bacteria rock you we don't know what's going to happen to the bus they're willing to tell us now in any more dramatically younger people were on the right to lead that you hadn't even though i had to lead a freedom ride
and raucous arthur liman and i feel really bad leaving my friends leave him my colleague and not been able to go on the ride on into georgia an ant alabama was a very difficult and decision to make but i have been waiting to go to india a goal to east africa or ofa two years as digital going i'm not until the last time it's going to iran to go on that again the bus is burned in anniston that people have been beating you in virginia they can get out they finally decide when to suspend the rye tell me about the decision in men who to continue to rise with a group of students in nancy drew and important as symbols point of the national effort we met
on a sunday night and the day we pleaded with the dots to make available to us nine hundred dollars will they needed nine hundred dollars about ten tickets and these tickets and food the travel a weekly and allow the third of balance of hours this app to stop the freedom ride so they made the decision this of the world made a decision to give us to make available to us the nine hundred dollars because if we go with the medicines are we said no one of low and only as the morning may seventeenth nineteen sixty one six thirty am latina last seven young men and three young women water away our bus and we traveled phone messages at the birmingham alabama
and when they arrived at the city limits of rum a ham bull connor the police commissioner mehta greyhound bus emboldened abbas that all of us as soar young like man and a young white man sitting on a front seat right behind the bus driver one of those young people with james were all right he told him to move and refused to move he arrested him took him to the city jail he ordered the bus driver to drive the bus to the greyhound bus station in downtown birmingham then bull connor alice o'connor is a fish is to look at uk tickets and optic israel a mesh router birmingham birmingham to montgomery montgomery to jackson mississippi from jackson to new orleans you literally are passionate about was the clippers owner was then you want the local police official the place newspaper cardboard aqaba all the windows
i wish you the back on the side because in sight of the bus for more banal and a half and that is the one place for long the rest of it that because it is a known location of the debt because why wind will provide for the current war in a newspaper up one of those windows mohammad placed acog more than the newspaper over the windows he didn't want the people on that side and especially the newspeople the photographer to see that we will not pass they wanted to make it difficult for the media to get word out for the press to see that we will still on a bus and that we will order that of the freedom ride i feel that really just i can't pass because you know i think that you know we talk a
Want to help make this content more accessible? Correct our machine-generated transcript.
American Experience
Freedom Riders
Raw Footage
Interview with John Lewis, 1 of 3
Contributing Organization
WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/15-tx3513w36f).
John Lewis was a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary on the CORE Freedom Ride, May 4-17, 1961 and the Nashville, Tennessee, via Birmingham, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, May 16-20, 1961
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, racism, segregation, activism, students
(c) 2011-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
Media type
Moving Image
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Release Agent: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
Identifier: barcode357646_Lewis_01_SALES_ASP_h264 Amex 1280x720.mp4 (unknown)
Duration: 0:29:31

Identifier: cpb-aacip-15-tx3513w36f.mp4 (mediainfo)
Format: video/mp4
Generation: Proxy
Duration: 00:30:00
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with John Lewis, 1 of 3,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 9, 2020,
MLA: “American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with John Lewis, 1 of 3.” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 9, 2020. <>.
APA: American Experience; Freedom Riders; Interview with John Lewis, 1 of 3. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from