The Catholic University of America


CUA Law Invited to Attend Screening of Documentary about Freedom Riders


A contingent of students and faculty members from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law were among those invited by the White House on Oct. 19 to attend a special screening of “Freedom Riders,” a documentary funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities that chronicles the struggles and courage of those on the forefront of the civil rights struggle in 1961.

The nearly two-hour film was followed by a panel discussion that included both the filmmakers and key figures from that time, including John Seigenthaler (top photo, right) who as an assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy was the federal government’s highest-ranking official present in the deep South in the early 1960s, and Diane Nash (top photo, with mic) coordinator of the Freedom Rides when she was a student at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.
The film aired nationally on PBS in May 2011, and has won three Emmy Awards. Based on Raymond Arsenault’s 2006 book, “Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice,” it tells the remarkable story of how more than four hundred black and white Americans challenged Jim Crow laws in the Deep South through nonviolent action and created great change.
The screening was held at the South Court Auditorium, adjacent to the White House in the Executive Office Building. The Administration’s invitation read, in part, “Our goal is to use the White House as a forum where the law students can view the film and engage in a direct dialogue with those who played a key role in shaping our nation’s history.
Local law students from Georgetown, George Washington, George Mason, American, Catholic, Howard, and the University of D.C. were in attendance. Dean Veryl V. Miles and Professor Regina Jefferson accompanied the students from Catholic University’s law school.
The audience included seven Freedom Riders who undertook the bus journey fifty years ago that rode contentious routes through the south, deliberately violating Jim Crow laws, from May to November in 1961.
The Freedom Riders’ campaign led to the issue of an order on September 22nd from the Interstate Commerce Commission to end segregation on buses and trains.