A restored vintage Greyhound bus was unveiled Tuesday morning to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Freedom Rides.
The bus, which was in service during the Freedom Rides – a series of political protests against racial segregation in 1961 – was unveiled at the Freedom Rides Museum at the Alabama Historical Commission in downtown Montgomery. The date of the unveiling coincides with the day the first Freedom Riders left Washington, DC, bound for New Orleans to protest the separate interstate transportation terminals.
“As we celebrate the arrival of the restored Greyhound Bus and its symbolic representation of the courage of the Freedom Riders, we also commemorate the 60th anniversary of the rides and their impact on equal rights for all Americans,” said Eddie Griffith, chairman of the Alabama Historical Commission. in a press release.
The Freedom Riders, which included black and white civil rights activists, participated in the bus trips in the Jim Crow South. Organized by the Congress for Racial Equality, the purpose of the rides was to pressure the US government to implement the 1960 Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia, which made the separation of transportation facilities unconstitutional. interstate, including bus terminals.
Thirteen runners, including John Lewis, the civil rights leader who became a Georgia congressman, left the nation’s capital on May 4 for New Orleans. However, white mobs attacked the runners at the bus stations.
The violence caught the attention of then-United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who negotiated with the then Alabama government. John Patterson, to ensure the protection of the runners. However, as the runners left Montgomery for Jackson, Mississippi on the morning of May 20, a white mob attacked them with clubs and baseball bats. The police were nowhere in sight.
The rides continued for several months, and as the violence gained national attention and hundreds of runners joined the movement, increased pressure from President John F. Kennedy’s administration drove the Trade Commission interstate to officially ban segregation at interstate transport terminals.
The restored bus will become a permanent exhibition of the museum.
Tuesday’s ceremony will include Bernard Lafayette Jr., one of the student riders attacked at the Montgomery bus station. The event will also mark the 10th anniversary of the museum itself, located at the Greyhound bus station where the Freedom Riders arrived.
“The story took place here,” said Lisa D. Jones, executive director of the historical commission and responsible for the state’s historic conservation. “Preserving this place helps bring to life a critical part of civil rights history and the role Montgomery and the state of Alabama played there.”
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