Sat. May 8th, 2021


Where Entertainment meets Reality

‘Freedom Riders’ Featuring John Lewis and C.T. Vivian Streaming on

In honor of the recent passing of two of the original Freedom Riders, longtime Georgia congressman John Lewis and the Reverend C.T. Vivian, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE announced today that it will stream Stanley Nelson’s Freedom Riders beginning today, Monday, July 20 on and the PBS Video App. The winner of three Primetime Emmy Awards, Freedom Riders, first broadcast in 2011, tells the powerful, harrowing and ultimately inspirational story of six months that transformed America.

From May until November 1961, more than 400 Black and white Americans risked their lives — and many endured imprisonment and savage beatings — by traveling together on buses and trains as they journeyed through the Deep South. Deliberately violating Jim Crow laws in order to test and challenge a segregated interstate travel system, the Freedom Riders met with bitter racism and mob violence along the way, sorely testing their belief in nonviolent activism. The film features testimony from government officials, journalists who witnessed the rides firsthand, and an extraordinary gathering of the Riders themselves, including John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, who recount their experiences. 

“We are proud to make this powerful film by Stanley Nelson available for free streaming to the American public,” said AMERICAN EXPERIENCE acting executive producer Susan Bellows. “As we mourn these two civil rights pioneers, we hope the story of their courage, determination and grace will continue to inspire us all.” 

“During the making of Freedom Riders I had the honor and the pleasure to get to know and interview John Lewis and C. T. Vivian,” said filmmaker Stanley Nelson. “They were true heroes who put their lives on the line to create positive change in the world. The lives of so many, including mine, were forever altered by their heroism. It is important for all of us in this moment to take up their legacy and push for real systemic change. May they Rest In Peace and Power.”

About AMERICAN EXPERIENCEFor over 30 years, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE has been television’s most-watched history series. Hailed as “peerless” (The Wall Street Journal), “the most consistently enriching program on television” (Chicago Tribune) and “a beacon of intelligence and purpose” (Houston Chronicle), the series brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that have shaped America’s past and present. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award, including 30 Emmy Awards, four duPont-Columbia Awards and 17 George Foster Peabody Awards; the series received an Academy Award® nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 2015 for Last Days in Vietnam. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE also creates original digital content that uses new forms of storytelling to connect our collective past with the present. Visit and follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube to learn more.  

Major funding for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE provided by Liberty Mutual Insurance, Consumer Cellular and by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Major funding for Freedom Riders is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor. Additional funding for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE provided by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, The Documentary Investment Group and public television viewers. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.