|Freedom Riders National Monument|
The former Greyhound station in October 2017
|Website||Freedom Riders National Monument|
|Designated||January 12, 2017|
The Freedom Riders National Monument is a United States National Monument in Anniston, Alabama established by President Barack Obama in January 2017 to preserve and commemorate the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Movement. The monument is administered by the National Park Service. The Freedom Riders National Monument is one of three National Monuments honoring American civil rights movements that was designated by presidential proclamation of President Obama on January 12, 2017; the others were the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument and the Reconstruction Era National Monument.
The Freedom Riders National Monument includes two locations. The first is the former Greyhound bus depot at 1031 Gurnee Avenue in Anniston, where, on May 14, 1961, a mob attacked an integrated group of white and black Freedom Riders who demanded an end to racial segregation in interstate busing. The mob slashed the bus's tires, threw rocks, broke the bus's windows, and pursued the bus after it fled the depot. The bus depot is also one of nine sites that are part of the Anniston Civil Rights and Heritage Trail, and is identified with a historic marker, erected in 2016. Today the wall of the building adjacent to the former depot features a mural and educational panels describing the incident; a similar mural has been installed adjacent to the former Trailways station where the other Freedom Riders arrived in 1961. The National Park Service, in conjunction with the city of Anniston, has announced plans to develop the building and open it to the public, but as of May 2017 it was closed to visitors.
The second site incorporated into the new National Monument is the "Bus Burning Site" (Old Birmingham Highway/State Route 202) some 6 miles (9.7 km) away. It was at this spot that the bus broke down because of flat tires, and the segregationist mob continued its assault, throwing "a bundle of flaming rags into the bus that exploded seconds later" and set the bus ablaze. The mob attacked the passengers as they tried to flee. The photo of the smoking bus was captured in an iconic photo by freelance photographer Joseph "Little Joe" Postiglione. An Alabama Historical Marker marks the site of the bus-burning. The National Park Service, Calhoun County, and the Freedom Riders Memorial Committee are working together to develop a plan for interpreting the site; Alabama Power provided money for the effort in 2015. A sign indicating the future presence of the park was erected in 2012. Soon after it was placed at the site it was vandalized, but it was quickly repaired. The site of the burning is today surrounded by private residences.
The National Park Service is currently seeking input from the public on planning and interpreting the National Monument.
The designation followed a visit by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis to the site in October 2016. The designation of the National Monument was hailed by local leaders in Anniston and Calhoun County, who had actively campaigned for the monument's establishment, as had Senator Richard Shelby.
A dedication ceremony took place on May 13, 2017, in downtown Anniston, on the day before the 56th anniversary of the incident. Former Freedom Rider Hank Thomas, the last living survivor of the bus-burning incident, delivered a speech. An interim visitors center, including a station where visitors may procure a National Parks passport stamp, has been established in the reception area of Anniston City Hall.
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