Lehman College to Open National Exhibit on 1961 Freedom Riders

© Corbis

© Corbis

Exhibition will run Nov. 29 – Dec. 15 and is a companion to forthcoming AMERICAN EXPERIENCE film on PBS

BRONX, N.Y. — The Leonard Lief Library at Lehman College will host the opening of the national traveling exhibition “Freedom Riders,” which looks back at six months in 1961 when more than 400 Americans risked their lives to challenge segregated facilities in the South. The free exhibition will run from November 29 through December 15 and is a companion to the May 2011 PBS broadcast of the AMERICAN EXPERIENCE film Freedom Riders, directed by Stanley Nelson.

The community is invited to view the exhibit, which combines powerful photography and news coverage to examine the movement from many perspectives. Hours are Monday–Thursday, 9 a.m. – 9:45 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. – 6:45 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5:45 p.m., and Sunday, noon – 7:45 p.m. Visitors can use their cell phones to access first-hand audio accounts of this dangerous experiment in the fight for civil rights.

The College also will sponsor two free lectures in connection with the exhibit: “Trials and Tribulations of the Freedom Riders” by Professor Emeritus of Black Studies William Seraile on Wednesday, December 1, from 9:30 – 10:45 a.m., and “The Freedom Rides and Jim Crow Public Transportation in the South” by Assistant History Professor Robyn Spencer on Thursday, December 2, from 11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Both will be held in the Library’s second-floor Atrium.

“We are very pleased to have been selected as the opening site for this exhibition,” said Lehman College President Ricardo R. Fernández. “The 1961 Freedom Rides are an inspiring example of what ordinary individuals can accomplish. Their actions and bravery provide invaluable lessons for our students, and for anyone who hopes to make a difference in our community, country or world.” Lehman is the first of 20 sites selected to host the exhibition.

The Freedom Riders—who were old and young, black and white, men and women, Northern and Southern—had a simple but daring plan: to board buses in small interracial groups to test and challenge the use of segregated lunchrooms, transportation waiting rooms, water fountains and other public facilities. They endured beatings, humiliation and imprisonment, but ultimately their actions and commitment to nonviolence laid the groundwork for historic change.

The exhibition, created by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and PBS’s flagship history series, American Experience, is funded through a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Lehman College is a partner with the Gilder Lehrman Institute in the High School of American Studies, located on the Lehman campus. Visit www.lehman.edu/library for more information.


Television’s most-watched history series, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE has been hailed as “peerless” (Wall Street Journal), “the most consistently enriching program on television” (Chicago Tribune), and “a beacon of intelligence and purpose” (Houston Chronicle).  On air and online, the series brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that have shaped America’s past and present. Acclaimed by viewers and critics alike, American Experience documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award, including twenty-four Emmy Awards, four duPont-Columbia Awards and fourteen George Foster Peabody Awards, one most recently for Two Days in October.

About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization improving and enriching American history education through a wide range of programs and resources for students, teachers, scholars and history enthusiasts throughout the nation. Gilder Lehrman creates and works closely with history-focused schools; organizes summer seminars and development programs for teachers; produces print and digital publications and traveling exhibitions; hosts lectures by eminent historians; administers a History Teacher of the Year Award in every state and U.S. territory; and offers national book prizes and fellowships for scholars to work in the Gilder Lehrman Collection as well as other renowned archives. Gilder Lehrman hosts www.gilderlehrman.org, serving as the gateway to American history online and featuring the quarterly online journal History Now, designed specifically for K-12 teachers and students.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities. NEH grants enrich classroom learning, create and preserve knowledge, and bring ideas to life through public television, radio, new technologies, museum exhibitions and programs in libraries and other community places. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.


Media Contact: Marge Rice / 718-960-4992