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May 16, 2011

Unsung Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement

PBS documentary 'Freedom Riders' spotlights the courage of a little known group

Martin Luther King Jr. might be the most well known face of the civil rights movement, but a small group of blacks and whites who boarded two buses—one Greyhound, one Trailways—in May 1961 may have been the most courageous.

Freedom Riders, an excellent American Experience documentary airing on PBS stations tonight, tells the story of those brave souls, who intended to ride the buses through the deep South, deliberately but non-violently violating prejudicial Jim Crow laws along the way—by sitting together in “whites only” establishments.

They were met with racism and mob violence, but continued their brave quest in a saga that ultimately pulled in the police, governors, the National Guard, the Kennedys, and a watching world—and, in the end, was a major victory for civil rights.

Here's the trailer.

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.