Friday, May 20, 2016

Remembering the Freedom Rides

May 14, Freedom Riders Hank Thomas, Bill Harbour, and Charles Person returned to Anniston for the bus burning anniversary and to take questions from local students and community members. Birmingham's Civil Rights Institute recently hosted "A Night with Freedom Rider Hank Thomas," one of the survivors of the firebombed bus in Anniston in 1961. Thomas recapped his story of escaping the fire, and 12 year old Janie Forsyth defying the angry mob to share water with Mr. Thomas and other Freedom Riders.
In Anniston, visitors can retrace the journey of the Freedom Riders and the events of May 14, 1961.
At 1031 Gurnee Avenue, the location of the first attack, where the Greyhound Bus station was once located, there is a mural asking "Could You Get On The Bus?" with informational panels capturing the events of Mothers' Day 1961.
The Greyhound bus departed the downtown Anniston bus station, followed by an angry mob, until the damage to the bus prevented it from traveling further along the Old Birmingham Highway, parallel to what is now Hwy 202. There, firebombs ignited the Freedom Riders bus. A historic marker is now located at the site of the bus burning. Many people remember the image of the Greyhound bus burning, but many don't realize there was another bus. A Trailways bus of Freedom Riders entered Anniston about an hour later to another attack. "The Other Bus" mural is located at the corner of 9th and Noble, where the Trailways bus station once stood. There are also panels at this location detailing the events surrounding the Trailways bus.
Recently, the National Park Service took part in a Reconnaissance survey and roundtable discussions, considering these Freedom Rider sites for federal designation.
You can take part in preserving these historic sites for the future. For more information, as well as opportunities to donate or write letters of support, visit 

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