Alabama remembers the Freedom Rides that happened 60 years ago this month

Freedom Riders
Freedom Riders Greyhound Bus Depot Site. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

This coming week, the state of Alabama is commemorating the 1961 Freedom Rides, one of the pivotal moments in the fight to end segregation. The Alabama Historical Commision and Alabama Tourism Department are honoring them with a special event and educational program. Read on to learn how the two groups are remembering the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides.

Anniston Alabama Freedom Riders
Freedom riders, supporters, Secretary Sally Jewell (center with red jacket) and National Parks Service Director (far right in uniform) Jon Jarvis

To commemorate the first Freedom Ride coming from Tennessee in May, 1961, the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC) is retracing the Freedom Ride between Ardmore, Tennessee to Montgomery with a stop in Birmingham.

They will be using a restored vintage Greyhound bus that is part of the Freedom Rides Museum permanent collection in Montgomery to reenact the trip. 

The Ardmore to Montgomery journey begins May 18 and ends in Montgomery at 10:23 AM on May 20th – the date and time the bus arrived in the city 60 years ago, where student Freedom Riders were met with violence.

The bus will arrive at the Freedom Rides Museum, a historic property of the Alabama Historical Commission.

The bus tour carries out the theme of the year-long commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides, “Retracing the Journey. Passing the Torch.” 

Why it matters

Freedom Riders at the old Greyhound Station
Freedom Riders in Birmingham at the Greyhound Station. Photo via Williams Blackstock Architects

The Freedom Rides took place throughout the South. It began on May 4, 1961 and continued through that summer. The rides lead the Interstate Commerce Commission to issue regulations prohibiting segregation in interstate transit terminals in the fall of 1961, under pressure from the Kennedy administration.

This affected all interstate travel including bus, train and air travel.

“This ride is planned as the first of other tours planned throughout the South to bring this history to its citizens.”

Eddie Griffith, Chairman at Alabama Historical Commission

Freedom Ride Tour Details

freedom riders
“Freedom Riders”—a film by Stanley Nelson. Photo via PBS

The tour will visit these cities and locations:

  • Ardmore, Tennessee: May 18, program begins at 4PM

Ardmore Public Library, 25836 Main Street Ardmore, TN 38449

  • Birmingham, Alabama: May 19, bus opens to the public at 3PM, program begins at 5PM 

Birmingham Public Library, 2100 Park Place Birmingham, AL 35203

  • Montgomery, Alabama: May 20, bus will arrive at 10:23AM

Freedom Riders will be available for book signings afterward in the museum.

Freedom Rides Museum, 210 South Court Street Montgomery, AL 36104

Visitors will get the chance to board the bus, hear the sounds, stories and songs of the Freedom Rides and carry suitcases to get the whole experience as the Freedom Riders. 

Original Freedom Riders will participate in the program.

Alabama Tourism Freedom Rides Podcast

alabama civil rights trail
Event flyer for Alabama Civil Rights Trail

Also remembering the Freedom Rides and the Civil Rights Movement is the Alabama Tourism Department. This week Tourism released three Alabama Civil Rights Trail podcasts.  The first episode is an in-depth look at the Freedom Riders, according to their news release. 

“Our new Alabama Civil Rights Trail podcast series will bring the state’s role in the Civil Rights Movement to life for listeners,”

Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department.

“Our goal is for listeners to learn more about the history of the movement and how Alabama played a critical role in shaping voting rights and equality for everyone.” 

Check out Alabama Tourism Department’s website after listening to each episode to learn more about Alabama’s civil rights legacy and plan your own civil rights journey with the help of the Alabama Civil Rights Trail mobile app – available now for free download in app stores.

To listen to the podcasts and learn more information, click here

Know you want to go check out the tour? Find out more: Website | Instagram | Facebook. 

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Tira Davis
Tira Davis
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