Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Happy 2024! Your financial support helps us bring you our great musical programming year-round.

Instruments Of Change: Music Of The Freedom Riders, 50 Years Later

Dr. Martin Luther  King Jr. sees off a group of Freedom Riders as they board a bus for Jackson, Miss., on May 24, 1961.
Paul Schutzer
/
Life
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sees off a group of Freedom Riders as they board a bus for Jackson, Miss., on May 24, 1961.

Exactly 50 years ago today, 13 "Freedom Riders" — seven black and six white — rode public buses into the Deep South. Their mission: to test a brand-new federal law prohibiting segregation in public bus terminals.

When the riders reached Alabama, the center for racial havoc and injustice during the modern civil rights era, all hell broke loose. One bus was destroyed by a mob and bomb, almost killing the passengers. The riders in the second bus were beaten by another mob in Birmingham.

Drummer Art Blakey and many other jazz musicians were acutely aware of what was happening, and their dream of social justice resulted in one of the most creative periods in jazz history. Here, we honor a few of the musicians who wielded their instruments in the pursuit of social harmony and change.

Copyright 2011 WBGO

Alexander Ariff
For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.