In 1947, fourteen years before the famous Freedom Rides of the early 1960s, a small group of courageous civil rights activists boarded buses and trains to fight segregation laws in the South. Their little-known story was captured by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Robin Washington, who brought the survivors of the ride together to retrace their trip and film it for what would become an acclaimed public television documentary in 1995.
Last year, Washington marked the 75th anniversary of their ride by adapting the program for broadcast on WPR. Now that radio adaptation, “You Don’t Have to Ride Jim Crow!,” has won best documentary honors in the National Association of Black Journalists’ “Salute To Excellence” awards. It will be rebroadcast on WPR’s “Simply Superior” at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 11 in the Duluth-Superior region. It can also be heard online anytime at https://www.wpr.org/shows/simply-superior-april-8-2022.
“You Don’t Have to Ride Jim Crow!” chronicles the Journey of Reconciliation by an interracial group of activists who sought to force Southern states to abide by a 1946 Supreme Court ruling that had outlawed segregation in interstate transportation. The group was met with arrests, a physical attack, and ultimately, 30 days on a chain gang.
Their story has become the lifework of Washington, the host of “Simply Superior,” who is passionate about sharing this important piece of history with a new generation of audiences.
“With racial inequities still plaguing our nation, this story is absolutely relevant today,” Washington said. “Although all of the riders have since passed, they left a blueprint for activism and a roadmap toward justice that can inspire us all — and that we can hear told to us in their own words.”
WPR’s “Simply Superior” is a news and public affairs program focused on issues in the Twin Ports and Northwestern Wisconsin. Guests include politicians, businesspeople, artists and cultural leaders. The program airs Fridays at 10 a.m. on The Ideas Network stations 91.3/Superior and 90.9/Ashland. It is repeated Friday evenings at 7 p.m. on WPR stations 89.9/Brule, 88.5/Superior and 104.7/Washburn/Ashland/Bayfield. Archives are available at wpr.org/programs/simply-superior