Ray Arsenault shares in another Emmy nomination

An episode of WEDU-TV’s Florida This Week that included USF St. Petersburg History Professor Ray Arsenault, Ph.D., has been nominated for a Suncoast Emmy Award.

The June 28 episode was the first and only time Arsenault, the USFSP John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History, has appeared on the weekly program, which features a roundtable discussion of top news stories and is moderated by journalist Rob Lorei.

Joining Arsenault in the nominated episode were former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, state Sen. Tom Lee and Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith. The topics included the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on the Voting Rights Act and the Defense of Marriage Act, immigration reform and Medicaid expansion in Florida.

The Suncoast Emmy Awards honor excellence in TV programming in Florida, Puerto Rico and parts of Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia. The June 28 Florida This Week episode is one of three nominees for Best Interview/Discussion Program. The winners will be announced Nov. 23 in Ft. Lauderdale.

This is not the first time Arsenault has been involved in Emmy-nominated work. A documentary film based on his award-winning book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice won three national Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award.

Arsenault said he is honored to have played a part in the Emmy nomination for Florida This Week. “I have long been an admirer of the show and of Rob Lorei’s thoughtful approach to public affairs,’’ said Arsenault, co-founder of the Florida Studies Program. “I hope the viewers got as much out of it as I did.”

Vivian Fueyo, Ph.D., interim regional chancellor for academic affairs, said the nomination reflects Arsenault’s depth of knowledge and the clarity of his ideas. “Dr. Arsenault has always believed in the importance of sharing his insights with the broader public,” Fueyo said. “This is another demonstration of his many strengths as an educator, historian and writer.”

 Watch the episode.









Ray Arsenault at the U.S. Supreme Court with former student Earl Lewis, Ph.D., president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

NEH to distribute “Freedom Riders” documentary to 500 U.S. communities

In observance of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the National Endowment for the Humanities will distribute Freedom Riders, the documentary film based on USF St. Petersburg professor Raymond Arsenault’s award-winning book, to 500 U.S. communities.

It is one of four films the NEH will distribute as part of its Bridging Cultures initiative, Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle. The initiative highlights what scholars call “the long civil rights movement,’’ from before the Civil War through the 1960s, a period that “saw America struggle to make the ideals of freedom and the pursuing of happiness a reality for all,’’ wrote James A. Leach, chairman of the NEH.

The package of films, all of which were funded by the NEH, will be accompanied by “programming resources to guide public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in U.S. history,” according to the NEH. Each participating site will receive up to $1,200 to support public programming exploring the themes of the Created Equal project.

The other three films in the set are The Abolitionists, Slavery by Another Name and The Loving Story.

Arsenault, the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History and co-founder of the Florida Studies Program at USF St. Petersburg, attended a reception and dinner Feb. 20 honoring the project at the U.S. Supreme Court. The event featured Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Earl Lewis, Ph.D., president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, who was a student of Arsenault’s at the University of Minnesota in the late 1970’s.

The PBS documentary Freedom Riders was based on Arsenault’s , Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. The film won three Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award.

“The sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation is an important milestone, and I feel honored that the NEH selected “Freedom Riders” as one of the four films to be featured in its commemorative initiative,” Arsenault said.

Norine Noonan, vice chancellor for academic affairs, said this is the latest example of high-quality scholarship at USF St. Petersburg. “Ray Arsenanult’s book has illuminated an important chapter in American history,’’ she said. “We are all extremely proud of his accomplishments.”


Dr. Ray Arsenault (right) attended President Obama's inauguration with Carol Ruth Silver, one of the Freedom Riders.

Witnessing history in Washington, D.C., with someone who made history

Ray Arsenault, Ph.D., the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at USF St. Petersburg, attended the inauguration of President Obama on Monday with one of the Freedom Riders whose story he told in an award-winning book.

Carol Ruth Silver was a recent college graduate working at the United Nations when she joined the Freedom Riders movement to protest the segregation of interstate buses in the South and served 39 days in prison. She later graduated from law school, worked as a lawyer, ran for Congress and served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She was the only Freedom Rider who managed to keep a diary during her time behind bars. She smuggled the diary, written on toilet paper, out of prison when she was released.

The diary will be published by the University Press of Mississippi later this year, with an introduction by Arsenault.

It was the first inauguration he ever attended. He and Silver were both there at the invitation of  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Not only was it an historic event, he was happy to share it with Silver and other veterans of the Civil Rights movement.

“It was an amazing, unforgettable experience,’’ Dr. Arsenault said.

It was also tiring. He stood for more than six hours with about 100,000 people in a special section about 100 yards from where the president was sworn in.

The night before, Arsenault and his wife, Kathleen, the retired dean of the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, attended the Florida State Ball at the Andrew Mellon Ballroom at the Treasury Department. The ball was a benefit for the Florida House, which serves as the state’s “embassy’’ in Washingon, D.C. Arsenault, co-founder of the Florida Studies Program and chairman of the History and Politics Department in the College of Arts and Sciences at USFSP, collaborated with the Florida House in 2011 as the director of a workshop for Pinellas County social studies teachers on Teaching American History.

Arsenault’s book, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, won the Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Award of the Southern Historical Association. A 2010 documentary based on the book won three Emmys and a Peabody Award.


Freedom Riders film, PBS series honored with Peabody Award

ST. PETERSBURG (May 25, 2012) – Ray Arsenault, the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at the USF St. Petersburg Florida Studies Program, was in New York City for the Peabody Awards this week as part of the team that produced the PBS documentary Freedom Riders.

The film, based on Arsenault’s book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, was part of the PBS TV series American Experience, which won a Peabody Award for 2011. The documentary was one of three films honored under the banner of American Experience. The Peabody awards are given each year by the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. It is considered the oldest award in electronic media and one of the most prestigious.

The awards were distributed during ceremonies Monday at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Among the 38 recipients were the CNN, the BBC, HBO, The Colbert Report and Austin City Limits.

“I felt so privileged to join the American Experience producers and documentary film makers at the Peabody Awards ceremony,’’ Arsenault said. “The 38 awardees included some of the finest and most courageous journalists in the world, ranging from investigative journalists to war correspondents to documentary film makers. Meeting them and viewing the samples of their work shown during the awards ceremony was both inspiring and humbling.”

Arsenault’s 2006 book is a harrowing account of one of the most important events in the Civil Rights Movement when some 200 volunteers, black and white, challenged segregation laws by traveling by bus in 1961 from Washington, D.C., through the Deep South, facing down hatred and violence along the way.

The documentary based on Arensault’s book, directed by Stanley Nelson, also won three Emmy Awards and was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

A specialist in the political, social, and environmental history of the American South, Arsenault has also taught at the University of Minnesota, Brandeis University, the University of Chicago and at the Universite d’Angers, in France, where he was a Fulbright Lecturer in 1984-85.

Media Contact ● Tom Scherberger ● (727) 873-4456 ●


Freedom Riders Documentary Nominated for Three Emmy Awards

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (September 13, 2011) – The documentary based on Ray Arsenault’s award-winning book, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, has won awards in three categories of the Primetime Emmy Awards from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

The award categories for the documentary Freedom Riders, directed by Stanley Nelson and produced by Laurens Grant, are Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking, Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming and Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming.

The production of the documentary was made possible through a $1 million grant awarded to WGBH Boston from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The documentary, which aired on the PBS American Experience program, is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ We the People project, an initiative to encourage and strengthen teaching, study and understanding of American history and culture through projects that explore significant events and themes in U.S. history and culture.

Arsenault, the John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at USFSP and a founder of the university’s Florida Studies graduate program, spent nearly 10 years researching the Freedom Rides, interviewing the Riders and immersing himself in a movement that ultimately desegregated interstate travel and launched a wave of Civil Rights reform.

His book, first published in 2006, was re-published in a 2011 abridged edition. In addition to working on and appearing in the documentary, Arsenault helped curate a traveling museum exhibit and led Freedom Ride 2011, a commemorative bus tour with 40 college students from across the country. The book and the documentary inspired Oprah Winfrey to host a Freedom Riders reunion on her TV program in May 2011. Arsenault attended and appeared on the show.

Named an Editor’s Choice by the New York Times and one of the best books of 2006 by the Washington Post, Freedom Riders won the Southern Historical Association’s Frank L. and Harriet C. Owsley Prize as the most important book published in the field of Southern history in 2006. Arsenault is a specialist in the political, social and environmental history of the American South.