One of the honored Freedom Riders on the show will be Rabbi Philip Posner.
An ardent social and civil rights activist, Posner joined the 1961 Freedom Rides, travelling throughout Mississippi. In May 1961, the rabbi and many fellow activists were unjustly arrested—Posner spent 39 days in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm state prison.
Actions of the Freedom Riders in the spring and summer of 1961 left an indelible mark on the American psyche. Although they faced brutal mob violence (including KKK retaliation) throughout the South, the group’s resolve was galvanized and unwavering.
The first Freedom Ride left Washington, DC on May 4, 1961, with seven African Americans and six Caucasians traveling in two buses. The Riders met little resistance until reaching South Carolina, where two activists were injured by a mob of locals. This was merely a precursor of violence to come.
Upon arrival in Alabama, one of the buses was firebombed by a rabid mob, yet miraculously there was no loss of life. The Rides gained international attention, and placed the focus squarely on American social injustice.
Oprah’s show honoring the Freedom Riders, including Rabbi Posner, will air on Wednesday, May 4, to commemorate the first Ride.
Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life
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