It's History Night! Freedom Riders, Sister Rosetta & Instruments Of Change

Jan 22, 2014

American Experience: Freedom Riders

WLRN looks back on Thursday nights at some of the most important milestones in human history with powerful and award-winning documentaries from around the world, including from our own backyard right here in South Florida. 

On January 23, Channel 17 takes a historic bus ride to revisit one of the most significant victories in the U.S. civil rights movement and presents Sister Rosetta Tharpe with her colorful mix of gospel music and good 'ol fashioned rock & roll.

(Editor's Note: Due to technical difficulties, Mary Pleasant has been postponed. Instead, WLRN will air an original production, Instruments of Change, at 10:00 p.m. See below for more details on the program.) 

American Experience: Freedom Riders (8:00 p.m.)

Freedom Riders is the powerful, harrowing and inspirational story of six months in 1961 that changed America forever. From May until November of that year, more than 400 black and white Americans risked their lives by simply traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South.

The riders' journey was front-page news and the world was watching. After nearly five months of struggle, the federal government capitulated. On September 22, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued its order to end segregation in bus and rail stations. Says award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson: "The lesson of the Freedom Rides is that great change can come from a few small steps taken by courageous people. And that sometimes to do any great thing, it's important that we step out alone."

Instruments Of Change

Instruments Of Change (10:00 p.m.)

History credits the inception of the U.S. civil rights movement to 
Montgomery, Alabama in the mid-1950s. However, as early as 1951, 
existed a Fine Arts Conservatory in Miami that was dedicated to bringing music, dance and art to young black and white students in an integrated environment.

This little known conservatory founded by longtime Miami resident Ruth Greenfield, would challenge segregation and change the lives of many of those who attended the school. As the Conservatory wound down in the late '70s, it overlapped with another Greenfield project 
known as the Lunchtime Lively Arts Series. Initiated in 1972 to help revitalize a downtown in decline, it was hosted by Miami Dade College and brought a variety of free entertainment to various downtown venues.

The series spanned almost 20 years and re-ignited interest in the arts, sparking an urban renewal movement that's still taking place today.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother Of Rock & Roll

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Godmother Of Rock 'N Roll (11:00 p.m.)

Though not perhaps a household name, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Her flamboyance, skill, and showmanship on the newly electrified guitar played a vital role in the conception of rock & roll as a genre of music.

Featuring archival performances and using new interviews with fellow musicians, producers, friends and colleagues, this film tells the story of a talented and determined woman who introduced the spiritual passion of her gospel music background into American rock & roll.

Don't miss a chance to learn more about Tharpe, her life story and lasting artistic legacy.