Traveling the Freedom Riders’ Route

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

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Charlie Brand works on the Freedom Rides Museum before the 50th anniversary of the 1961 freedom rides. (The Washington Post)

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 “Until they visit, many people don’t realize while the Montgomery Bus Boycott cleared the way for blacks to ride on any seat on local transportation after 1955, blacks didn’t have that same access on interstate transportation,” Carl said. The federal courts in Boynton v. Virginia desegregated interstate transportation in 1960, but in the Deep South, it didn’t matter. Blacks were relegated to the rear of the bus and were subjected to segregated restrooms and restaurants at bus and train terminals.

At the Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station, blacks would have to go around to a door just off of the loading dock to enter. A sign with 6-foot letters marked the Colored Entrance of the facility built in 1951, Carl said.

Greyhound relocated its station in 1996 and the building was acquired by the General Services Administration. But even before Greyhound left the building, the door of the Colored Entrance was bricked in, Carl said.

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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