American Freedom Stories chronicles the personal struggles and triumphs of those who were a part of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama and Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s. A 22 part digital series produced for Biography.com.
American Freedom Stories - Preview
On March 7, 1965 around 600 people crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in an attempt to begin the Selma to Montgomery march. State troopers violently attacked the peaceful demonstrators in an attempt to stop the march for voting rights.
March From Selma to Montgomery
On Sunday, March 21, 1965, nearly 8,000 people began the five-day march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights.
16th Street Baptist Church Bombing
On September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church as church members prepared for Sunday services. The racially motivated attack killed four young girls and shocked the nation.
Children's Crusade of 1963
From May 2 to May 5, 1963, thousands of children left their schools in Birmingham, Alabama, to march for civil rights. Police officers responded by using water cannons and dogs to attack and then arrest the children.
Civil Rights Foot Soldiers
They will never get their names in the history books, yet the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights movement changed history for the better through their unsung acts of courage.
Sheyann Webb - Smallest Freedom Fighter
Sheyann Webb became involved with the Civil Rights Movement when she was 8 years old. On March 7, 1965, Webb was the youngest participant in the civil rights demonstration that became known as "Bloody Sunday."
George Wallace - "Segregation Forever"
When George Wallace first ran for Governor in 1958 he was considered a moderate on the race issue. But after he lost, he ran again in 1962 and won on a platform of racial segregation and was backed by the Ku Klux Klan.
Emmett Till - Legacy
On August 24, 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till reportedly flirted with a white cashier in Money, Mississippi. Four days later, two white men tortured and murdered Till. His murder galvanized the emerging Civil Rights Movement.
Fred Shuttlesworth - Leading Birmingham
Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth was one of the South's most prominent Civil Rights leaders. He worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., co-founded the SCLC and refused to waver even after he was brutally attacked.
Solomon Seay Jr. - Civil Rights Lawyer
Solomon Seay Jr. was a prominent Civil Rights attorney in Montgomery, Alabama who worked on cases involving the Selma to Montgomery March, The Freedom Riders, John Lewis and the Lee vs. Macon public school desegregation.
Medgar Evers - Assassination
As an NAACP field secretary, Medgar Evers became a target for those who opposed racial equality and desegregation. On June 12, 1963 at 12:40 a.m., Evers was shot in the back in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi.
Medgar Evers - Legacy
In 1954, Medgar Evers became the first state field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi. As a civil rights leader, he fought to end the racial injustice he experienced growing up in the South.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
For 382 days, almost the entire African-American population of Montgomery, Alabama, including leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, refused to ride on segregated buses, a turning point in the American civil rights movement.
Rosa Parks - Remembered by Her Friends
Those who knew Rosa Parks personally discuss her legacy and their memories of her life.
Martin Luther King Jr. - Pastor
From 1954 until 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. was the pastor of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the only church where MLK pastored and the site where he began his Civil Rights activism.
Coretta Scott King - Dexter Avenue Church Choir
After her husband became pastor, Coretta Scott King joined the choir at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. Hear two of her friends and members of the congregation remember Mrs. King's legacy and her voice.
Martin Luther King Jr. - Call to Activism
On the night of January 27, 1956, when he was just 27 years old, Martin Luther King Jr. received a threatening phone call that would cause his life to change forever.
John Lewis - Civil Rights Leader
Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis joined the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. Lewis was a Freedom Rider, spoke at 1963's March on Washington and led the demonstration that became known as "Bloody Sunday."
Robert Graetz - Civil Rights Leader
Reverend Robert Graetz was pastor of an all-black congregation at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and a prominent civil rights activist who played a major role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Robert Graetz - House Bombing
Reverend Robert Graetz, the white pastor of an all-black church in Montgomery, Alabama, became a target of racial hatred because of his civil rights activism, including the bombing of his house on two separate occasions.
Martha Hawkins - Georgia Gilmore's Club From Nowhere
In the 1950s, Georgia Gilmore organized The Club From Nowhere to sell food to help fund the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martha Hawkins, the owner of Martha's Place, discusses how she was inspired by Gilmore's activism.
Morris Dees - Southern Poverty Law Center
In 1971, Morris Dees worked with fellow attorney Joseph J. Levin Jr. to found the Southern Poverty Law Center. The not-for-profit agency was formed to "combat hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation."