Freeman on freedom

JoyEllen Freeman, a sophomore in UGA’s Honors Program, is one of 40 college students selected to participate in the 2011 Student Freedom Ride, a civil rights history bus tour sponsored by PBS’s American Experience history series. Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides, the trip kicked off in Washington, D.C. May 6 and covers eight Southern states. It will end May 16.

Freeman and other students on the tour are documenting their experiences through blogs, online videos and social media. They are visiting historically significant sites and meeting some of the original Freedom Riders.

“Participating in the 2011 Student Freedom Ride is a chance for me to perpetuate a legacy and retell a story that changed America forever,” said Freeman, who is from Alpharetta. “The 2011 Student Freedom Ride is a way to remind America that ordinary college students played a role in transforming the racial inequality in our country. It is through their sacrifice that we are able to enjoy the freedom of today.”

The Freedom Ride provides a unique opportunity for Freeman to connect-on a personal level- with her current research work in the apprentice program of UGA’s Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, CURO. She has been working under the guidance of English professor Barbara McCaskill.

Freeman researches and writes content for the online archive’s companion website that focuses on Georgia’s civil rights movement. At the recent CURO Symposium, she presented another project on the life and music of pianist prodigy Thomas “Blind Tom” Bethune, who was born into slavery in Georgia, in the context of race relations in the 19th century.

“JoyEllen is a perfect choice for this very special program,” said David. S. Williams, associate provost and director of UGA’s Honors Program. “She is well-versed in the background and history of the civil rights movement through her undergraduate research experiences, and she is utterly dedicated to the interests of equality and justice.”

The 40 student participants were selected from a pool of almost 1,000 applicants based on their essays on why they wanted to participate, their thoughts on the role of social media and technology in civic engagement today, and their extracurricular activities.

Freeman, who is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in English and English education, holds a Foundation Fellowship at UGA-the university’s most prestigious academic scholarship.

The 2011 Student Freedom Ride is being held in conjunction with the broadcast premiere of Stanley Nelson’s film, Freedom Riders. The film, which is partially based on Ray Arsenault’s book, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, will air May 16 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS. Nelson and Arsenault will accompany the students on the bus tour.

Television’s most-watched history series, American Experience has been honored with every major broadcast award, including 24 Emmy Awards, four duPont-Columbia Awards and 14 George Foster Peabody Awards, administered by the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.