The main thing I learned by watching the documentary was how much pain and suffering had to be done and how many people had to sacrifice their safety in order for things to be how they are today. Today, segregation does not exist like it did in the 50s and 60s. Members of different races can sit in the same seats, shop in the same places, and get the same jobs. This is the case because of how much the students in the Civil Rights movement went through. I was not aware of how much pain, physically and mentally, they had to go through in order to make a change. I was not aware of how brave they were.
They knew what was coming to them as a result of their actions, but they did it anyway. Frederick Leonard, one of the freedom riders, said the following regarding getting off the bus at one of the stops on the Freedom Rides. "And then all of a sudden, just like magic. White people, sticks and
bricks, they're going, "Kill the niggers." We were still on the bus,
you know? But I think we're all kind of deciding, "Well, maybe we
should go off the back of this bus." Because we kind of knew that if we
had gone off the back of the bus, then maybe they wouldn't be so bad on
us. They wanted us to go off the back of the bus. And we decided no,
no, we'll go off the front and take what's coming to us. We went out
the front of the bus." This quote shows that they were very well aware of the consequences and they knew they were going to get hurt, but they were so driven to make a change that they didn't care. They risked their safety for the sole purpose of fighting segregation.
One thing that surprised me was that it wasn't just those being discriminated against that were participating in the movement. I knew some whites also helped, but I didn't realize they risked theirsafety as well. An example of this is Jim Zwerg, who was participating in the Freedom Rides. Zwerg, in an interview after getting beaten at the same stop Frederick Leonard commented on above, said "Those of us who are on the Freedom Ride, we will continue the Freedom
Ride. I'm not sure that I'll be able to, but we're going on to New
Orleans no matter what happens. We're dedicated to this, we'll take
hitting, we'll take beating. We're willing to accept death. But we're
going to keep coming until we can ride from anywhere in the South to any
place else in the South without anybody making any comments, just as
American citizens." Like Leonard, Zwerg knew he was risking his life for the movement and it didn't stop him. Being white, especially, they risked their safety the most because the people who were anti-segregation were the most enrages by those of their own race who were supporting the other side.
The first tactic used in the movement was the aforementioned Freedom Ride. I think this was very effective because the willingness of the students to take beating and to keep going allowed for the movement to continue. If they would have given up, the movement would have reached a halt.