Traveling the Freedom Riders' Route

Stops for history buffs include Montgomery's Greyhound Bus Station and other time-honored markers.

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The story of the freedom riders in Montgomery is told inside and outside of the museum. Outside, a huge panel exhibit with photos and text captures the highlights of the attack at the bus station and the rally at the First Baptist Church where the Rev. Ralph Abernathy was pastor. Inside, art exhibits inspired by the freedom riders is on display.

Several freedom riders have visited the museum and recorded their stories. Visitors can listen to those stories, or they can record their own.

Carl estimates it takes 45 minutes to complete the visit to the museum, open only two days week -- Friday and Saturday -- from noon to 4 p.m. CST. Groups of 10 or more can request tours on other days.

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 The museum is operated by the state of Alabama, but the state has faced financial struggles in recent years, and while the museum was able to open its doors in 2011, it is limited in the hours it can be staffed, Carl said.

She is hoping that interest among visitors will increase and the museum can add to its hours of operation. About 2,000 people have visited since May 2011, she said.

While the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery is the only one specifically dedicated to the rides, the trail of the riders can be traced with the help of maps and historic markers.

One of most significant points along the route for many freedom riders was the Parchman Penitentiary in Sunflower County, Miss.

Once freedom riders were arrested at the Greyhound Bus Station and charged in Jackson, Miss., they were sent to Parchman, packed in small cells and stripped of necessities as basic as toothbrushes. But while serving their time, the riders sang in the cells.

In 2011, then Gov. Haley Barbour unveiled a historic marker on the site of the former bus station commemorating the freedom rides. The ceremony was part of events in that state commemorating the 50th anniversary of the rides.