So it's fitting that the title of this year's exhibit at the museum is "Travelin' Down Freedom's Main Line," a lyric from a black protest song that the riders sang on their way to fill up
But this exhibit also puts the Freedom Rides in the larger context of the civil rights movement.
"People will be coming for the 50th anniversary of the
Her inspiration came in part from reading the 2008 book by journalist and photographer
Also included are works of art, in various media by multiple artists, that offer different points of view and add a depth of meaning. There are several prints by
The exhibit explores several themes, from the riders' point of view: their commitment to non-violent action; what happened when they told their families of their involvement; what it was like to be in jail; and how the rides changed the course of their lives.
Flooding the jails
The Freedom Riders were seeking to end segregated facilities on interstate bus routes in the South. Attacks on riders at
An angry mob waited for the bus that arrived from
As the movement grew, the focus shifted to flooding the jails in
The 84 people headed for
A large, rectangular billboard across one wall features the mugshots of all those riders who ended up arrested in
"What we've found is really powerful is if people can say, 'Oh, I know that town.' So we've got all of these towns, all of these states, all of these faces, and it will ultimately fill the whole wall," Mertins said. Next year, the museum's exhibit will focus on those who came from
The next generation
Three years in, the museum continues to draw visitors from not just
The museum recorded 2,238 visitors in 2013, a slight increase over 2012, according to the
"I love that we have both the art and the more traditional exhibits -- more text and photos," Carl said. "You're able to reach people on a different level."
That's particularly important for the young people who visit, who are more than a generation removed from the civil rights era. Making the museum relatable to them is important, Carl said.
"Often we'll talk about bullying, and that's something they can relate to," she said. "In a sense, that's what the Freedom Riders were doing -- standing up to bullies."
They also understand that the rides were a young person's movement. Seventy-five percent of the Freedom Riders were younger than 30, and a large percentage were college-age, Carl said; the youngest rider was 13.
"They realize that not only did they change the world, they had to face some real danger in doing so."
WHAT: The new exhibit, "Travelin' Down Freedom's Main Line," opened this weekend
WHEN: The museum is closed today, but will be open from
DETAILS: Groups of 10 or more can tour by appointment. Call 242-3935 or log on to freedomridesmuseum.org
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