>> Stepping off the train in 1961 in Jackson Mississippi, Harry Singleton was ready to make history.>> I saw whites only sign up above a door and I knew that's where I'm going. I am Helen Singleton, I am a freedom writer>> Hundreds of students boarded buses and trains that year calling themselves freedom writers.
The young men and women rode from station to station across the south defying signs marked whites only. The writers ate at lunch counters and used rest rooms in terminals where federal desegregation laws were blatantly ignored. The students knew where the peaceful protests would land them.>> When we were asked to leave the dining area at the rail road station, we did it after we were arrested and we went to jail.
Our intent was to stay in because the mantra was go to jail, stay in jail, no bail. And that was what it was about.>> I could see a lot of people out there who were hungry to get their hands on us. So I was glad to get in your paddy wagon
>> Helen's husband, Bob Singleton, organized the Freedom Ride. He was inspired by an encounter with Dr. Martin Luther King Junior earlier that year while protesting Woolworth's racially segregated lunch counters.>> That was my own meeting with Dr. King face to face. He marched with us in front of a Woolworth store.
That really made me from that point on an organizer
He was able to make you feel that whatever burden you might be carrying carry it with dignity and hope and then also take action.>> While the slow march towards civil rights moved in
] fits and starts, the freedom writers saw swift change.
By the end of 1961, the terminals were forced to desegregate.>> The magnificent thing is that we won that battle inside of one year>> We contributed to changing public policy that had been there since the beginning of the 20th century.>> But on April 4, 1968 with the Civil Rights struggle still far from over, King was shot in his hotel balcony in Memphis, killed by a segregationist.
Farrell traveled to Atlanta to attend the funeral.>> The silence. The silence, once the body came out of the church, the silence on that long march, it was just something I've never experienced before or since.>> For the next half century, the activists struggled on. Now they see a new generation taking up the fight.
>> A lot has changed. The signs came down, there's no more overt racial discrimination in hotels and restaurants. However, when you make that sort of change, your opposition goes, it go undercover if you will. But in this case they took off the hoods and the Klan. They put on three-piece suits.
>> The fact that 50 years later there is so much still to be done just demonstrates to me and to others. How deep, how very, very deep white supremacy, its premises and the dynamic that still propels our nation is still there.