Freedom Riders

On May 4, 2011—the 50th anniversary of the first Freedom Rides of 1961—"Liberté," a 22" high-bronze sculpture by Yonkers artist Vinnie Bagwell, will arrive at the historic Montgomery, AL, Greyhound bus station for a year-long exhibition titled, "Road to Equality: The Freedom Riders of 1961," sponsored by the Alabama Historical Society and the Alabama State Arts Council. A second cast of “Liberté” will be unveiled at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York on November 1, 2011 at a commemorative program and exhibition-opening reception being planned by co-sponsors Sarah Lawrence College and ArtsWestchester, the largest arts council in New York State, serving Westchester County.

Freedom Riders were civil-rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated, southern United States to test the 1960 United-States Supreme-Court decision Boynton v. Virginia. The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961, and riders kept rolling through September. More than 60 different Freedom Rides criss-crossed the South, and more than 300 riders were arrested. It is estimated that almost 450 riders participated in one or more Freedom Ride. About 75 percent were male, and the same percentage were under the age of 30, mostly evenly divided between black and white. November 1, 2011 will be the 50th anniversary of when the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) issued the necessary orders—and the new policies went into effect—that permitted passengers to sit wherever they pleased on interstate buses and trains; “white” and “colored” signs came down in the terminals; separate drinking fountains, toilets, and waiting rooms were consolidated; and lunch counters began serving people regardless of race.

"This is an important time for reflecting on liberty, democracy, and freedom in America. My goal is to create art that has the power to reach out, strike the heart, and enrich the lives of others. There were many Freedom Riders from the greater New York metropolitan area, and still many surviving, including Mayor Ed Koch. I hope people will appreciate their contribution to the American struggle for equality," Vinnie Bagwell declares.

Ms. Bagwell created "The First Lady of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald," a life-sized bronze at the Yonkers Metro North train station in 1996, and "Frederick Douglass Circle" at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, in 2008. She is currently developing "The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden," a public-art project for the City of Yonkers to commemorate the first enslaved Africans to be manumitted by law (written by John Jay) in the United States, 76 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

The exhibition at Sarah Lawrence College will feature the artwork of 13 contemporary artists, alongside artists from the civil rights era, and will be on view for the month of November. The opening program will also include special guest speakers, spoken word, poetry, and performing artists. Additional information will be announced in the near future on this site and on