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Get to the back of the bus

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By Ryan Houston - bio | email

ALBANY,  GA (WALB) –Tonight starts a two- day celebration of the documentary Freedom Riders. It's a two hour film about rides throughout the south to test segregation statues.

The film will be played in it's entirety tonight at ASU in the ACAD building. Freedom Riders is sponsored by the Georgia Humanties Council , the Albany Civil Rights Institute, ASU, and Thronateeska Heritage Center.

This documentary will not be released to the public until May 2011. Sneak peeks are being held at different locations to build up anticipation for the film.

Who knew trying to sit at the front of the bus could turn so deadly? "It took an incredible amount of courage to do this. As soon as they crossed the Alabama state line things took a turn for the worse," said Executive Director of the Albany Civil Rights Institute Lee Formwalt. 

One of the two buses was firebombed in Alabama, and police involvement at that time was null and void.  The people on the trail-ways bus headed to Anniston had no idea it was blown up. 

"Police were warned about the other bus and deliberately showed up ten minutes later. That time gave the Klan a chance to beat the daylights out of them," said Formwalt.

At that point the freedom rides were over. That was a pleasing sight to some in the deep south.

It took students from Fisk University, to pick up the torch and keep going no matter what. "More Freedom Riders came and picked up where the others left off. And they went on to Jackson and ended up getting arrested there," said Formwalt. 

Even though arrest were made, violence poured into the streets like water, their mission was carried out. "What they proved was that the southern states where ignoring federal law," said Formwalt. 

The storyline in the film may make some uncomfortable. "For white people that means confronting things that aren't pleasant. Also they're will be things we'll be ashamed about," said Formwalt. 

History has taught us things will get better with time. If you want the whole story you have to come to the viewing tonight at 7:30 on ASU's campus.

Tomorrow night two Albany Freedom Riders will speak at Thronateeska Heritage Center. It's located in the old Union Railroad Station where the Albany Freedom Riders were arrested. That event will start at 7:30.

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