The Freedom Riders were greeted with cheers, music and standing ovation as they stepped out off the bus in New Orleans on Monday. The big change can be understood simply by comparing the Freedom Ride 2011 to the one that took place in 1961 when the Freedom Riders, struggling for civil rights, were met by aggressive and mad mob who attacked and injured them.
Travelling in the recent Freedom Riders bus were also five of the activists who were part of the 1961 Freedom Riders and had travelled through the South. It should be noted that the Freedom Riders of 1961 travelled by bus to test the decision of the court that had unified transportations between states. The ruling of the court was not taken seriously by many of the southern states and buses never made their way to New Orleans due to the attacks in Alabama.
This year 40 college students also accompanied the Freedom Riders. The ride kicked off on May 6 and continued through Monday. They followed the route of the first Freedom Ride 1961 that had started from Washington D.C.
The Freedom Ride 2011 has been arranged by PBS in collaboration with the previous night's screening of a documentary on the Freedom Riders subject. Both the documentary and the ride are celebrating the 50th bicentennial of the first Freedom Ride and succeeding rides it encouraged in 1961.
Participants of the Freedom Ride were chosen following the custom of selection of the Freedom Riders of 1961. A collection of men and women from diverse races and students were chosen from around one thousand applicants who wanted to join the Freedom Ride 2011.
Charles Person, who travelled in the Freedom Riders bus in 1961 when he was 18 year old, also accompanied the Freedom Riders 2011. Person was the youngest Freedom Rider in 1961 and he was also attacked and brutally beaten by a mob in Alabama.
"I've been impressed with their intellect and enthusiasm," Person said. "They have the type of passion that is necessary to take on a trip like this. They're interested in immigration policy, LGBT rights, gender equality, the sour mood of the country, the repression of teachers and labor unions in some states -- the type of issues you would think young people would not be interested in."
The bus retracing the Freedom Ride of 1961 stopped in front of the New Zion Baptist Church in Central City, Monday. This location holds key place in the civil rights movements of New Orleans.