The restored vintage Greyhound bus that is part of the Freedom Rides Museum permanent collection will retrace part of the journey of the Freedom Riders beginning May 18. The bus will visit Ardmore, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama, before arriving in Montgomery at 10:23 a.m. on May 20 – the date and time the bus arrived in the city 60 years ago, where student Freedom Riders were met with violence. The bus will arrive at the Freedom Rides Museum, a historic property of the Alabama Historical Commission.
The bus tour carries out the theme of the year-long commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides, “Retracing the Journey. Passing the Torch.” The Freedom Rides, which took place throughout the South beginning on May 4, 1961, and continued through that summer, would ultimately lead the Interstate Commerce Commission to issue regulations prohibiting segregation in interstate transit terminals in the fall of 1961, under pressure from the Kennedy administration. This affected all interstate travel including bus, train and air travel.
“By taking the newly restored Greyhound bus on a tour of the stops where the Freedom Riders encountered their most violent resistance, the Alabama Historical Commission is bringing the history of the Freedom Riders and their message of equality as the basis of American democracy to new generations in the context of where these historic events occurred,” said Alabama Historical Commission Chairman Eddie Griffith. “This ride is planned as the first of other tours planned throughout the South to bring this history to its citizens.”
The tour will visit the following cities and locations:
- Ardmore, Tennessee – May 18, Program beginning at 4 p.m., Ardmore Public Library, 25836 Main Street
- Birmingham, Alabama – May 19, Bus open to the public at 3 p.m.; Program beginning at 5 p.m., Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place
- Montgomery, Alabama – May 20, Bus will arrive at 10:23 a.m., Freedom Riders will be available for book signings afterward in the museum, 210 South Court Street
Visitors in each city will have the opportunity to board the bus and be immersed in some of the sounds, stories and songs of the Freedom Rides and view a suitcase exhibit encouraging them to envision what it would take for them to make such a journey. In some locations, original Freedom Riders will participate in the program.
The tour concludes at the Freedom Rides Museum, which is located in the historic Greyhound bus station where the student Freedom Riders arrived in Montgomery on May 20, 1961. In the late 1990s, when the bus station was threatened with demolition, the AHC joined concerned citizens to fight for its preservation. Working closely with the General Services Administration, the Federal Court, and others, the AHC made the Freedom Rides Museum a reality, opening in 2011 on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. This year the museum celebrates its 10th anniversary.
“Preservation efforts like the one that saved the Greyhound bus station are at the heart of what we do,” said Lisa D. Jones, Executive Director of the Alabama Historical Commission and State Preservation Officer. “We work with concerned citizens and community partners to identify historic places that are in danger, then develop and execute a plan to preserve and protect them. Sharing their stories keeps history alive.”
Rounding out the 60th Anniversary commemoration, the Freedom Rides Museum is partnering with filmmakers and affiliates of “Son of the South” for a series of events designed to educate the public about the events of the Freedom Rides. The film follows the life of a young Bob Zellner, the grandson of a Klansman, as he makes the decision to become a civil rights activist. The movie was shot in Montgomery, including a pivotal scene recreating the arrival of the Freedom Riders at the Greyhound bus station that now houses the Freedom Rides Museum.
Events will include a book signing at the Freedom Rides Museum from 12-1 p.m., a showing of the film at 3 p.m. at the historic Capri Theatre in the Cloverdale Historic District, and a broadcast live-stream presentation featuring discussions with the filmmakers, Freedom Riders, activists and actors open to the public at the Freedom Rides Museum at 6 p.m. For more information about the Capri showing, contact Martin McCaffery, Capri Theatre: email@example.com. For more information about the film feature, contact Verane Pick Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Freedom Rides Museum is a historic property of the Alabama Historical Commission. For more information, visit www.ahc.alabama.gov.