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Freedom Riders and Community Discussion

Dr. John Kirk, UALR

Dr. John Kirk, Donaghey Professor and Chair of the UALR History Department

Tuesday, Nov. 18 · 4-8 p.m.
Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall
Moderator: John Kirk, Ph.D.

Join us for the showing of the film, Freedom Riders, followed by a community discussion about the movement to end racial segregation in interstate travel. The discussion will be led by Dr. John Kirk, Donaghey Professor and Chair of the UALR History Department, a specialist in the history of the civil rights movement in the United States, the South, and Arkansas.

He has won a number of awards for his research including the F. Hampton Roy Award (1993) from the Pulaski County Historical Association, and the Walter L. Brown Award (1994), the J. G. Ragsdale Book Award (2003), and the Lucille Westbrook Award (2005) from the Arkansas Historical Association. Kirk has been widely published in the field with several books on the civil rights movement.


Historical Background

In 1961, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Boynton v. Virginia (1960) ordered an end to segregation in interstate bus terminals. That summer, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organized Freedom Rides to test facilities in the South. The rides ventured into the Deep South where participants were attacked by segregationists in Alabama.

As CORE abandoned the Freedom Rides amid escalating violence, another civil rights organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), vowed to continue the protest. Eventually, the federal government was forced to act to protect the riders against white violence. A number of follow-up rides to test bus terminal facilities across the South were instigated by CORE in conjunction with other civil rights organizations that worked together in a Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee (FRCC).

As a result of this pressure, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered the end to segregation in interstate bus terminals, effective November 1, 1961. Many places, including Little Rock, which encountered its own Freedom Riders, desegregated on that date. The Freedom Riders documentary outlines the story of the Freedom Rides and the acts of heroism of those who participated in them, thus, bringing about the end of segregation in bus terminals. There’s even a short snippet of the Freedom Riders in Little Rock, if you watch closely enough!

 John A. Kirk, Ph.D.
UALR Department of History

Panelist Bios

Joyce Elliott is currently a Democratic member of the Arkansas Senate, representing the 31st District. She was first elected to the Senate in 2009. Previously, Elliott was a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives serving three two-year terms until term-limited from 2000 through 2006 during which time she served on the following committees: Budget; Education, chair last term; Insurance and Commerce, Judiciary.

Allan Ward is professor emeritus of Speech Communication at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He received his bachelor’s and masters degrees from the University of Arizona. He earned his doctoral degree from Ohio University, and did post-doctoral work at the University of Denver. In addition to serving as a professor at UALR, he has also held the position of Dean of Instruction at Philander Smith College, Director of Research and Staff Development at World Services for the Blind, and has taught communication courses at the Arkansas Police Academy and in the prisons. As a consultant, he provides lectures, workshops, and seminars for institutions in the commercial, governmental, educational, health-care, non-profit, and religious sectors. Most recently, Ward published Civil Rights Brothers: The Journey of Albert Porter and Allan Ward (2014). In the book, Ward focuses on his  friendship with longtime friend and colleague Albert Porter and the impact of their work to fight prejudice and to build a more just and harmonious society — first in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and then across the nation and around the world.

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