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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.