The 2011 Student Freedom Ride was organized and sponsored by the PBS history series American Experience. The project is intended to act as a moving, interactive classroom that fosters a national conversation with a new generation of Americans on civic engagement. The 2011 riders were chosen from a pool of nearly 1,000 applicants and, like the original Freedom Riders, are an interracial group of men and women from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds. They will visit college campuses and attend events along their route to New Orleans, including speaking engagements with local leaders and original Freedom Riders. The itinerary also includes stops at historical sites, including the bus station in Anniston, Alabama, the town where a Greyhound bus carrying Freedom Riders was attacked and bombed, and the historical First Baptist Church in Montgomery, where Freedom Riders were trapped along with Martin Luther King Jr. and many others by a mob of whites. The project will use a variety of traditional and social media tools to explore the various forms civic participation can take today and to encourage students nationwide to think seriously about what it means to "get on the bus."
Footage from the 2011 Student Freedom Ride will be shown during the premiere of Freedom Riders. The documentary, by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, reconstructs the historic events of May–November 1961 through testimony from the riders, government officials, and journalists who witnessed the Freedom Rides firsthand. On April 13, Freedom Ride veterans were honored at a special screening of the documentary hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Endowment for the Humanities.