Oprah honours Freedom Rider rabbi

By Jennifer Lipman, May 4, 2011
A Freedom Riders bus is attacked in Alabama

A Freedom Riders bus is attacked in Alabama

A rabbi who was arrested during civil rights demonstrations in America’s Deep South in the 1960s is to be honoured by Oprah Winfrey later today.

The talk show host has dedicated an episode of her popular show to the efforts of the Freedom Riders, who began their crusade for racial equality 50 years ago today.

The Freedom Rides were peaceful protests organised to test whether a 1960 Supreme Court ruling desegregating interstate buses would be honoured in reality.

Rabbi Philip Posner, who has been a rabbi for almost four decades and now lives in Mexico, was one of hundreds of black and white men and women from across the United States who participated in 65 rides throughout the summer of 1961.

The Freedom Rides garnered nationwide attention as participants faced mob violence and intimidation. Rabbi Posner, like many others, was arrested and spent 39 days behind bars in Jackson, Mississippi

Rabbi Philip Posner

Rabbi Philip Posner

Rabbi Posner, who went on to champion social action causes in El Salvador and Ethiopia, will appear on the show with 180 other Freedom Riders.

Jews were heavily involved in the struggle for racial equality in the 1960s and it is believed that around two-thirds of those who joined marches and protests, including the Freedom Rides, were Jewish.

In 1964, Jewish activists Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were lynched in Philadelphia, Mississippi along with James Chaney during a campaign for voter rights.

Last updated: 10:30pm, May 4 2011