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WCNY Producing Local Special for Freedom Riders’ 50th Anniversary

SYRACUSE — Local PBS affiliate WCNY-TV is giving viewers the chance to learn how a television show is produced, and to learn about a key point in the Civil Rights Movement.  On April 27th, the general public is invited to sit in the live audience for the taping of “Voices From the Back of the Bus” at Fowler High School.  Featured guests include three Syracuse residents who participated in the “Freedom Rides,” which took place 50 years ago this May.

The local special, set to air in May, will tie-in with a PBS network documentary called “Freedom Riders,” which is also scheduled to air in May.

Here are the full details, as provided in a press release from WCNY’s Matt Michael:


SYRACUSE, N.Y. (April 12, 2011) – Nearly 50 years ago in May 1961, more than 400 civil rights activists – black and white, men and women, Northern and Southern – risked their lives by traveling together on buses as they journeyed through the Deep South. They called themselves “Freedom Riders.’’

One of the Freedom Riders who challenged integration laws was Rev. LeRoy Glenn Wright, Associate Minister of St. Luke’s Baptist Church in Syracuse. At 7 p.m. April 27 at Fowler High School in Syracuse, Rev. Wright will share his experiences with a live audience for a WCNY-produced show called “Voices From the Back of the Bus.’’

“Voices From the Back of the Bus’’ will air next month in conjunction with “Freedom Riders,’’ a PBS American Experience documentary about the Freedom Rides that served as a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.

For “Voices,’’ WCNY Director of News and Public Affairs Susan Arbetter will show clips from Freedom Riders and interview guest panelists Rev. Wright and Civil Rights activists Ann and Dale Tussing, of Syracuse. In the early 1960s, the Tussings became active in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the group that initiated the Freedom Rides.

Following the taping of the 30-minute “Voices,’’ Arbetter will host a town hall question-and-answer period with additional guests, including Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler. The event is open to the public and audience members will have an opportunity to ask questions, see what goes into making a television show, and learn the Freedom Riders’ powerful story.

In addition to exploring our area’s Freedom Riders’ legacy, the April 27 event will put this inspirational story into modern context, especially for the Fowler students in the audience who come from many different backgrounds and cultures. Like the Freedom Riders, many of the students face enormous challenges as they attempt to overcome prejudice and integrate themselves into American culture. The story of the Freedom Riders is also their story, and it shows how the actions of individuals can make a difference.


Live taping of “Voices’’: Doors open at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, Fowler High School Auditorium, 227 Magnolia St., Syracuse.

When to watch: “Voices From the Back of the Bus’’ at 10:30 p.m. May 9 and 7:30 p.m. May 15 on WCNY 24.1 and 24.4; “Freedom Riders’’ at 9 p.m. May 16 on WCNY 24.1 and 24.4.

On the Web: Additional material shot during the live taping of “Voices From the Back of the Bus,’’ including clips from the question-and-answer period, will be available on a “Voices’’ web page at The page will include classroom activities, links to educational web sites, and a list of resource materials that focus on Central New York’s connection to the Freedom Rides.

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