Freedom Rides Museum opens Friday in Montgomery

Montgomery is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1961 freedom rides with the opening of a new museum. On May 20, 1961, a group of black and white students got off a bus at Montgomery’s Greyhound Station. Their non-violent response to a waiting mob helped end racial segregation in interstate travel. The events that day turned this ordinary building into a landmark that stands as a monument to the power of nonviolent protest to end unjust laws. The Alabama Historical Commission will open the Freedom Rides Museum at the station with the exhibition Road to Equality – the 1961 Freedom Rides. Road to Equality features artworks created by 15 regional artists for the year-long exhibit. The existing exterior panels tell the Freedom Rides story with participants’ words and images. The artworks add another way to explore this history. The museum also includes a story quilt by Nora Ezell and a “Share Your Story” video kiosk. Places in the building show how it was designed for racial segregation.

The three-day commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides begins on Thursday, May 19 at noon with with Dr. J. Mills Thornton’s lecture The Freedom Riders Come to Alabama at the Alabama Department of Archives & History. On Friday, May 20 at 10:00 a.m., Governor Robert Bentley will speak at the opening of the Freedom Rides Museum.  Lee Sentell, state tourism director and board member of the Alabama Historical Commission, will introduce the governor. Freedom Riders John Lewis and Jim Zwerg will be part of the opening ceremony. The museum opens at 10:45 and book signings are from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  At 11:30 a.m., visitors can attend thededication of the Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Collection at the federal courthouse, at the corner of Lee and Church streets (photo ID required).  Also on Friday is a special downtown Civil Rights sites trolley tour, which runs 12:00-4:00 p.m. Concluding the day is the 1961 Mass Meeting Commemoration at First Baptist Church, 347 N. Ripley Street, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

On Saturday, May 21, the museum is open 11:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m., and the downtown Civil Rights sites trolley tour will run from 11:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.The museum is located just south of the intersection of South Court Street and Adams Avenue. Court Street will be closed to through traffic on Friday.

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