"I can make a difference in my world. I can. And that's really what I'm trying to live by now."
JoyEllen rode the bus in WGBH's American Experience Student Freedom Ride—one of 40 college students who recreated the harrowing 1961 Civil Rights journey through the Deep South that challenged Jim Crow laws... and changed America forever.
FREEMAN: In 1961, the government had outlawed segregation, but most places in the South simply did not comply with it.
And the Freedom Riders decided to challenge these practices, and they got on a Greyhound bus as an integrated group and rode throughout the Deep South.
My name is JoyEllen Freeman, and I was a participant in the 2011 Student Freedom Ride.
It was basically a way to allow 40 college students from across the nation to retrace the steps of the original 1961 Freedom Riders.
I had been struggling with, you know, self-doubt, with wanting to be courageous but not knowing how, so I decided to interview Ernest "Rip" Patton, one of the original Freedom Riders.
FREEMAN (interviewing): I was just wondering, as a Freedom Rider, did you ever deal with those types of feelings of not being able to accomplish your goal?
FREEMAN: And he said, you know, "I always have continuous courage, "and I gained this courage from the word of God, from Romans chapter 12 verses one through two," and he started to say the verse.
PATTON: Do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the, uh...
FREEMAN: And I said, "By the renewing of your mind," and he said, "Yes, that one, that's it!"
And it just felt like so many emotions were coming down on me at once, and I literally just had to stop the tape and I started bawling.
And he just hugged me for three minutes straight.
It was almost like an emotional cleansing from a lot of things that I'd been feeling.
I literally felt renewed.
I feel eternally grateful to WGBH and American Experience for the 2011 Student Freedom Ride.
I got a new definition of courage.
I can make a difference in my world.
And that's really what I'm trying to live by now.