“Seven Days of 1961: A Dangerous Ride on the Road to Freedom” spotlights the pivotal protests to end legal segregation and extend voting rights to millions of Black Americans in 1961. The interactive story recounts 19-year-old civil rights activist and Freedom Rider Hank Thomas’ harrowing experience as he traveled through the deep South to protest segregated bus terminals.
Narrated by USA TODAY’s Senior Video Producer, Jarrad Henderson, “Seven Days of 1961: A Dangerous Ride on the Road to Freedom” transports viewers to May 4, 1961, in Anniston, Alabama. The AR experience combines 3D visualizations of historical images, the Freedom Riders Greyhound Bus, and Hank Thomas’s first-person account. It delivers visuals inside and outside the bus as Thomas and other Freedom Riders encounter members of the Ku Klux Klan who had formed an angry mob armed with chains, bats, and other weapons. Users witness the mob smash windows, slash tires, yell racial epithets, and toss firebombs, engulfing the bus in smoke.
“This augmented reality experience allows one to be present alongside activists who fought for freedom and equality during the civil rights movement, giving users a deeper understanding of discrimination during that time,” said Ray Soto, Senior Director of Emerging Technology. “We’re proud to have produced this compelling experience that impacts our users in an innovative and moving way.”