Longleaf Studios to Premiere Director's Cut of "The Fire in Anniston"


This cropped image from the film poster was created by JSU Graphic Design Professor Christian Dunn.

JSU's Longleaf Studios will premiere the director's cut of "The Fire in Anniston: A Freedom Rider's Story" on June 24, 6 p.m., in Ernest Stone Performing Arts Center. The film's writer, director and producer will be in attendance to answer questions after the screening. Admission is free and open to the public. 

Produced for Alabama Public Television by Longleaf Studios, in partnership with Prodigi Arts, "The Fire in Anniston" is a one-hour documentary that tells the story of the Freedom Riders who were greeted with violence on their peaceful mission to protest racial segregation in the South. 

On May 4, 1961, an integrated group of 13 Freedom Riders left Washington, DC to challenge the continued segregation of buses on Southern interstates, despite the US Supreme Court declaring this practice unconstitutional on public buses. When the two buses arrived in Anniston, Ala. on Mother’s Day, May 14, a dark chapter in American history was waiting to unfold. 

A bus full of passengers was lit on fire by an angry mob of Klansman, who held the doors shut with the intention of killing all on board. Fortunately, the passengers were able to escape, but not without enduring a violent beating. A second bus was boarded by Klansmen, who also beat the passengers nearly unconscious. The violence continued as the injured Freedom Riders continued to Birmingham, Montgomery and beyond. 

The "Fire in Anniston: A Freedom Riders Story" is a compelling historical account of social injustice, the fight for equal rights and the reckoning of a small Southern town. The bravery of those young 13 visionaries started a movement that received worldwide attention. Today, Anniston is redefining itself as a place for redemption and Civil Rights education. In 2017, the Greyhound bus station and the site of the bus burning were declared US National Monuments by President Obama. 

The film features reenactments by students in the JSU Department of Theatre and Film, while the production included the graphic design talents of JSU Art and Design majors. 

“It was an incredible opportunity for JSU students to work closely with a professional film studio and numerous influential people from the Anniston community to tell the Freedom Rider’s story from an Anniston perspective,” said Seth Johnson, director of JSU’s Longleaf Studios, executive producer of the documentary and head of the Department of Art and Design. “JSU’s partnership with Alabama Public Television provides our students the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience that will prepare them for careers in the film industry. We are immensely lucky to have this opportunity.”