CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Freedom Riders came to Charlotte and Rock Hill 50 years ago. And now, a new group of students is taking the same journey.
The original Freedom Riders were nearly killed by angry mobs who waited for their buses to arrive and then created havoc and fear. The student activists tried to call attention to ongoing segregation by riding a Trailways and Greyhound buses together into the deep South.
"Just for attempting to sit on a bus, that you could be burned alive, was incredible," said an original Freedom Rider.
Now, 40 students from around the country are taking the same trip. Michellay Cole and others stopped in Charlotte, after being in Greensboro.
"It's relative because there's still racism now. It's just more subtle today," she said.
Charles Jones is an original Freedom Rider. He too is in Charlotte, visiting with the new group of riders and here to see friends from his original ride five decades ago.
"Fifty years later! We had no idea," he exclaimed, his voice softening in disbelief.
But now those 13 students, both black and white, are being remembered in a film called "Freedom Riders," by Stanley Nelson. It will appear on WTVI May 18 at 9 p.m.
"It took remarkable physical and moral courage not to pass on this, but to put their bodies on the line, even though some of them were just 18, 19, 20 years old, Dr. Raymond Arsenault, told a crowd gathered at the Levine Museum of the New South.
The students in 1961 are the same age as the students on the Freedom Bus today. Today's students face their own issues, they say.
"If people are aware of where we came from, they can make a correlation on how far we've come and how far we have to go," said Cole.
The Freedom Ride will venture to Rock Hill next. That city is significant because it's where US Congressman John Lewis was beaten while riding the bus.
Years later, the man who beat Lewis, reached out to him to apologize and make amends. The two have spent time together and reflected on that period of time when they were both young men.