Best Of 2011

BEST EMMY, OPRAH AND CL-APPROVED HISTORIAN: Raymond Arsenault

BEST EMMY, OPRAH AND CL-APPROVED HISTORIAN

The John Hope Franklin Professor of Southern History at USF St. Pete and founder of the school’s esteemed Florida Studies Program, Ray Arsenault has earned ample acclaim for his books on St. Petersburg, Jefferson Davis, Marian Anderson and the Freedom Riders (which won him CL’s Best Local Author in 2006). But this year, in the wake of a PBS documentary on the Rides for which he was a consultant, he’s been achieving new levels of celebrity — re-creating the Riders’ bus trips, appearing on Oprah, co-curating a nationally touring exhibit and sharing in the glory of multiple Emmy wins. Even more important, the film has allowed him to shine an even brighter spotlight on the courage and resilience of the Freedom Riders, for whom Sept. 22 is a significant milestone: it’s the 50th anniversary of the Interstate Commerce Commission’s decision to desegregate buses and terminals, validating the Riders’ crusade. (Look for Arsenault to make another big splash with his next book, the first biography of tennis player Arthur Ashe.)