2011 Freedom Ride Activities
An array of activities commemorating the May 14, 1961 attacks on two busloads of Freedom Riders in Anniston was announced on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. at the former Greyhound bus station, located at 1031 Gurnee Avenue.
Spirit of Anniston Board Chair, Ann Welch, released a list of events that are planned for the 50th anniversary of the Greyhound bus burning that became an international incident, speeding the downfall of segregation in the south. “We have been working for nearly two years to lay the groundwork for a Civil Rights Trail and this particular commemoration,” she explains. “And as we’ve moved forward, many different people and organizations have stepped up to the plate to be part of this significant effort.”
The Civil Rights Trail will include stops on W. 15th St., two former bus station buildings, the public library, and the site of the actual bus burning on the old Birmingham Highway. The Trail will ultimately be expanded to include other significant Civil Rights/African American heritage sites.
The Spirit of Anniston is working with Public Broadcasting Station WGBH/Boston to coordinate a preview showing of the documentary produced by Stanley Nelson, Freedom Riders, in which Anniston is prominently featured. The preview will be combined with a reception for a busload of college students who are re-creating the Freedom Rides in May 2011, under the guidance of Dr. Raymond Arsenault, whose book, Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, is the basis for the documentary.
The following is a list of current partners, which is expected to grow in the coming months as additional plans are finalized:
The Anniston Star. Under the guidance of Theresa Shadrix, special publications manager and Robert Jackson, vice president of sales and marketing, the company is researching, writing, and producing a Civil Rights-themed publication that will unveil new first-person accounts and new details of the bus burning and other incidents of the time.
The Anniston-Calhoun County Public Library will house a two-month exhibit of selections from 64 photographs taken by Joe Postglione for The Anniston Star on May 14, 1961. On loan from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the exhibit will begin in May 2011. Two new photographs discovered by Steve Gross in The Anniston Star archives will be added to the collection and will be on public display for the first time at both the library and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Informational and commemorative signage will also be developed that relates to the 1963 integration of the library.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will partner with the Spirit of Anniston and the community to develop a youth leadership and docent program modeled on the Institute’s Legacy Youth Leadership program. Selected high school students experience a series of training classes that will introduce them to the history of the era and how to share it with visitors.
Jacksonville State University (art, history, education, environmental). JSU is participating in several aspects of project development.
The History Department, under the leadership of Dr. Gordon Harvey is helping organize a September 2011 symposium that will feature noted historians Dr. Ray Arsenault, author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice and Dr. Wayne Flynt, author of Poor But Proud and his new memoir that will be published next August.
The Art Department, under the guidance of Dr. Jauneth Skinner, will be assisting on various art-related projects; in particular, JSU graduate student Jason Wright is developing a Civil Rights Trail logo.
The Education Department under the leadership of Dr. Linda Mitchell, is developing a Freedom Rider curriculum module.
JSU Environmental Policy & Information Center Director Pete Conroy is working with state representative Dr. Barbara Boyd and Omega Psi Phi fraternity to develop Freedom Rider Park at the site of the actual Greyhound bus burning on the old Birmingham Highway.
Southern Custom Exhibits. This locally owned and nationally known firm will be working on signage for several of the sites on the Civil Rights Trail.
Several private property ownerswhose buildings were once bus stations or adjacent have agreed to allow interpretive signage on their property. Ben Howell, owner of Howell Signs at 1031 Gurnee St. has agreed to placement of a plaque on the former Greyhound bus station. Steve Taylor, owner of Moore Printing has agreed to larger, explanatory signage on his building beside the bus station. Darin and Tracy Sims, owners of 901 Noble St, which was the former Trailways bus station, are also cooperating in signage placement for that building.
The city of Anniston, one of the Spirit of Anniston’s funding sources, last year contracted for an update to the survey of properties for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This new survey includes buildings from the late 1950s and early 60s, which now identifies significant buildings like the Greyhound bus station.
“We have a lot of work to do this fall and next year but we think this is a great beginning for stimulating economic development through heritage tourism,” said Georgia Calhoun, co-chair of the Spirit’s Civil Rights Trail committee.