CHICAGO -- On Wednesday, May 4, the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, ÂThe Oprah Winfrey ShowÂ honors the brave and determined group of 436 Americans Â men and women, black and white Â who joined together in a peaceful demonstration against racial injustice and segregation and risked their lives to change a nation forever.
In a powerful and historic hour, Oprah welcomes 178 surviving members of the Freedom Rides in one of the largest gatherings of riders since 1961.
Said Winfrey, "ÂAs an African American woman born in Mississippi in 1954 and raised in the south, I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Freedom Riders, as do we all. I know my life would be different were it not for them."Â
During the episode, Congressman John Lewis is face-to-face again with Elwin Wilson, the man who brutally beat him in South Carolina while he attempted to enter a ÂWhites OnlyÂ waiting room at a bus station.
Joining Congressman John Lewis are other Freedom Riders, who were among the 300 who were jailed at MississippiÂs State Penitentiary (Parchman Farm) to help overthrow segregation, sharing their personal recollections.
Also, Janie Forsyth McKinney, who was just a 12-year-old girl when she braved an angry mob to help the Freedom Riders, recounts the harrowing story of the bus that was set ablaze in front of her fatherÂs grocery store.
Plus, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. KennedyÂs then assistant, John Seigenthaler, talks about the beating he received while he tried to protect protesters.
Winfrey added, "ÂOn behalf of all of America, may I say you make us proud to call ourselves American. Â We stand in reverence for what you have doneÂ as we look at the courage that you all showed at such a young age.Â"