Janet Braun Reinitz

Janet Braun Reinitz

 New York City, New York, USA
BandSpoken WordComedy

An activist and early feminist, Janet Braun-Reinitz was one of 427 freedom riders in 1961 and a co-founder of "Tasteful Ladies for Peace". She has painted more than 50 murals in 5 different countries,is currently the President of Artmakers Inc., a politically oriented, community mural organization.


In 1961, an interracial group of bus riders set out to test a new law outlawing segregation in transportation terminals. Sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the riders used nonviolence as a strategy to highlight the injustice of segregation.

The rides began in Washington, D.C. Two teams of riders boarded two buses, a Greyhound and a Trailways. The planned route would have the riders arriving in New Orleans, Louisiana, to celebrate the May 17th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision that outlawed school segregation seven years before. The route would also take the riders through the deep South, through some of the most dangerous areas of the country for people who believed in racial equality.

The first leg of the journey was largely uneventful. John Lewis, a young student from Nashville, was arrested and detained briefly in Rock Hill, South Carolina, but the rides continued on to Atlanta. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped host the riders there and expressed concern for their safety as they prepared to enter Alabama. His concern proved prophetic.

Just outside of Anniston, Alabama, a mob attacked and fire-bombed one bus. Only the quick intervention of state safety office saved the lives of the riders. The other bus managed to arrive in Birmingham, only to be greeted by an angry gang who beat the Freedom Riders. The Freedom Rides had reached a critical point. Should they continue, at the risk of suffering and perhaps death or should the rides stop? As CORE debated this issue, Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent in his special assistant John Seigenthaler to help the beleaguered Freedom Riders get safely to New Orleans.

In Nashville, a group of young student activists learned of the violence against the Freedom Riders. After much debate, the students decided that if the Freedom Rides ended, it would send a signal to racist hate groups that violence could end the struggle for freedom. Then the violence against activists for freedom would increase, making it harder to secure equality. The Nashville students did not want the movement for civil rights to end, so they sent students to Alabama to continue the Freedom Rides.

This courageous effort by these young students, many of whom were members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), inspired other young people to get involved and join the Freedom Rides too. During the rest of that year, hundreds of black and white students traveled from across the country to help integrate the terminals. But they didn't just help end segregation there. Ultimately, the young Freedom Riders helped bolster a movement of local black activists across the deep South, and together they would help topple segregation everywhere.

So, the story of the Freedom Riders shows how young, committed students can organize and improve society. Are you willing to work for a better world?

Set List

Freedom Rider Lecture
Filmscreening and Lecture
Art and the Struggle for Social Justice - 60 minute Lecture
Filmmaker Dave Rienitz and his mother, muralist Janet Braun-Reinitz present an extraordinary documentary entititled "When Women Pursue Justice-A Community Mural Project", reflecting the historical commemeoration of past achievements as well the current concerns and ongoing efforts of today's activist women