As part of the ongoing commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, Freedom Riders National Monument is inviting the public to view the Smithsonian Institute traveling exhibit titled “The City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.”
Beginning April 3, and continuing every weekend from 10 am to 5 pm, visitors are welcome to explore the Anniston Greyhound Bus Depot (1031 Gurnee Avenue) which will house a series of diverse exhibits throughout the year, including The Freedom Rides (May), Emancipation and Its Legacies (June/July), and A History of Freedom in the United States (August). Other exhibits will be announced as plans are finalized.
The Freedom Rides marked a moment of change in the American Civil Rights Movement. Youth leaders involved in the movement charted an activist course through the events of 1961 that went beyond what established civil rights leaders were willing to endorse. The growth and success of this youthful activism propelled the Civil Rights Movement into the pivotal years of the mid-1960s, when leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) worked in collaboration with others including the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to achieve significant victories.
One such cooperative moment, the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, inspired King and other SCLC leaders to orchestrate the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. Comprised of a multi-ethnic coalition of the poor who worked together to draw attention to poverty in America, the campaign culminated in the “Resurrection City” convergence on the National Mall.
Freedom Riders National Monument encourages visitors to wear masks and practice social distancing. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (256) 499-7209.
In 2017, Freedom Riders National Monument (FRRI) was created by presidential proclamation to commemorate the story of the “Freedom Riders.” These interracial groups of activists were organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to test the impacts of the 1960 Boynton vs. Virginia Supreme Court ruling, which overturned a judgment convicting an African American law student for trespassing in a “whites only” area of a bus terminal. Up to this point, interstate facilities were designated as either black or white, and while segregation laws stipulated “separate but equal,” public services offered to African Americans were typically inferior. Black travelers often lacked soap in their bathrooms, benches in their designated bus terminals, and seating in restaurants that would not serve them alongside white patrons.
Setting out from Washington, DC on May 4, 1961, the Freedom Riders’ goal was to travel on public buses through the South, braving the segregated realities of Jim Crow that lingered despite the legal desegregation of interstate travel. Anticipating violence, many of the Freedom Riders wrote out their wills prior to departure and prepared for the worst. On Mother’s Day, May 14, 1961, as the bus made its way from Atlanta to Birmingham, AL, the Freedom Riders were forcibly stopped in Anniston, AL by a white segregationist mob. The attackers beat the Freedom Riders and firebombed the bus, wounding many and permanently paralyzing one.
Images of the brutal attack that shattered a quiet Sunday afternoon in Anniston captured the world’s attention. The assault, along with white supremacist violence inflicted on another group of Freedom Riders in Birmingham, forced federal involvement. The incidents ultimately galvanized support for the Freedom Rides from both civil rights groups like the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the broader public, ensuring that the initiative would carry on to its destination.
Today, the National Park Service manages the Greyhound bus station in Anniston, AL, and the bus burning site 6 miles outside of town on Highway 202. The goal of FRRI is to foster reconciliation and racial healing by commemorating the Freedom Rider’s nonviolent campaign that brought national attention to the brutal reality of segregation in the South and forced the federal government to take action toward ending segregation in interstate travel. Learn more at www.nps.gov/frri/, and on Facebook.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.i