Freedom rider Hank Thomas calls on Park Service to consecrate Anniston bus burning site as “holy ground”

Below – excerpts from the speech today by Hank Thomas, Freedom Rider and survivor of the Anniston Bus Burning.  

The speech was given after a tour of the proposed Freedom Riders Park.  The tour was part of a visit by Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell who later held a public hearing in downtown Anniston to consider a proposal to designate sites around Anniston as a National Park.

“I am hoping that you and your Department will consecrate this particular spot…as holy ground.”

“We cannot make history antiseptic. If we are going to truly move forward, just like we consecrate grounds of the civil war, we have also got to consecrate the grounds that black folks fought for their rights in this country.”

“This is a symbol of how this country has changed.”

Thomas also thanked Janie Forsyth McKinney, who at 12 years old, after the freedom riders escaped the burning bus, gave the freedom riders glasses of water.  Thomas called her the “Angel of Anniston.”

Quotes from Forsyth-McKinney –  “I needed to do something because people were suffering.”

“I love the fact that this spot is going to be part of the redemption story for Anniston, Alabama.”

*For additional details about the Secretary of Interior’s visit to Anniston and Birmingham, plus a slideshow of the proposed National Park sites – visit Bham Now’s story from earlier this week. 

Site of Freedom Riders Park several mile outside the city of Anniston
Site of Freedom Riders Park several mile outside the city of Anniston


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Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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