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“Freedom Ride” Explores Nation’s African American History

In celebration of Black History Month, a group of SUNY Cobleskill students and faculty took part in the “Freedom Ride,” traveling by bus to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., over three days from Feb. 24 through 26, visiting historical sites and points of interest with a connection to African American history.

The group had an extensive itinerary for a weekend filled with exploration, inspiration, and discovery, beginning with the Liberty Bell and National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Upon entry, guests were overtaken by the U.S. constitutional rights displayed in large scale on the Center’s walls, the grand size symbolizing the significance of our Constitution.

Following the stops in Pennsylvania, the “Freedom Ride” continued its route to Washington, D.C., with stops at the White House, U.S. Capitol Building, Lincoln Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Opened to the public in 2011, the memorial honors Dr. King’s legacy and the struggle for civil rights, equality, and justice.

One of the final stops in Washington, D.C. was to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Opened in 2016, it is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.

SUNY Cobleskill’s “Freedom Ride” was named in honor of the Freedom Riders, groups of activists who, in 1961, organized bus trips through southern U.S. states to protest segregated bus terminals, drawing violent counter-protests while garnering attention to the civil rights movement.



“Freedom Ride” participants shared their recollections from the trip and the impact of seeing these historical sites in person.

“Freedom is an inalienable right of all human beings. It cannot be bestowed, nor can it ever be denied. Freedom is ‘autonomy of choice’ without causing harm or strife to others. Freedom is the fundamental state of being that has been fought for and on behalf of human beings since the beginning of time. My lasting takeaway is witnessing first-hand our students explore, learn, and reflect on a treasure of experiences, exhibits, and imagery throughout the weekend in the spirit of freedom in the United States and throughout the world.” – Derwin Bennett, SUNY Cobleskill’s Chief Diversity Officer

“Freedom to me means that everyone is equal, has the same rights, and can live the life they choose or want. My takeaway from this trip is how important it is to learn about American history and the history of African Americans in this nation. For me, the highlight of this trip was on the top of the Lincoln Memorial steps. From the steps, I could see the Washington Monument and take in just how beautiful Washington D.C. is. So many people were there just to see these monuments and memorials, and I thought that was really amazing!” – Sierra R., Student

“Freedom is the ability to go anywhere anytime for any reason. I do feel like much of our history gets lost, and it’s our responsibility to re-learn it. It’s up to every generation to build its own connections with this history.” – Desiree S., Student

“The highlight of my trip was the National Museum of African American History and Culture. What I liked about that museum was that it started in the basement. This symbolized the rising of African Americans in our society. It ended on the top floor with former President Obama, symbolizing how far we have come since starting on the ground floor. Freedom is having the ability to express your viewpoints and beliefs, and I feel like we are very blessed to have this in our country, but I feel people take it for granted. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. This museum helped me appreciate how far everyone came and was very impactful for me.”  – Rebecca Burton, SUNY Cobleskill Financial Aid Counselor

“For me, the highlight of this trip was the Holocaust Memorial Museum. It was an eye-opening and impactful experience to see the journey of the Jewish people from pre-history to the present day.” Faith H., Student


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Photos submitted by Freedom Ride participants.

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