This is the historic Greyhound Bus station in Montgomery, Alabama. On May 20, 1961, an integrated group of college students from Nashville came here to challenge racial segregation in interstate transportation. Theirs was not an innocent prank by a bunch of fraternity boys and sorority girls. This was serious business. Civil disobedience. They knew they were risking their lives; they wrote out their last wills and testaments before heading to Alabama. It was, after all, Alabama. And, not surprisingly, they were met with mob violence for daring to cross the color line.
Most of the bus station has been shut down, but the windows and walls facing the street have been transformed into an exhibit that documents the role of young people in resisting Jim Crow.
There’s not much left to see at the station, one of the newer museums on the civil rights trail. There’s an architectural blueprint of the station which shows where blacks and whites were permitted to sit, eat, stand, and pee. Again, not surprisingly, whites were given ample space and comfortable accommodations while blacks were squeezed into smaller “quarters” with separate and unequal everything.
Besides the obligatory gift shop, the Freedom Rides Museum has an art exhibit featuring work by Alabama artists inspired by the courage of the Freedom Riders. This is my favorite work on display:
Read more about the Freedom Rides Museum here: http://www.preserveala.org/greyhoundstation.aspx
Read this excellent article about the riders in Smithsonian Magazine:
And, watch this PBS documentary on the Freedom Riders:
Almost time to get back on the bus….
Julie Drizin, Silver Spring