The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Sunday, May 22, 2022


Freedom Riders Get Place in History 50 Years Later
Freedom Riders, from left, Hank Thomas, Rip Patton and Margaret Leonard listen to the program during the opening ceremony of the Freedom Riders Museum in downtown Montgomery, Ala. on Friday May 20, 2011. AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey Welsh.

By: Phillip Rawls, Associated Press



MONTGOMERY, AL (AP).- Freedom Riders who were attacked in Alabama's capital city on May 20, 1961, returned 50 years later to be hailed as heroes and have a museum dedicated at the old bus station where they were confronted by an angry white mob.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, said he teared up Friday when he walked through the old Greyhound station where he was beaten and knocked unconscious.

"It says something about the distance we've come and the progress we've made in this state and nation," said Lewis, who participated in the rides.

That change was evident in former Alabama Gov. John Patterson. In 1961, he called the Freedom Riders fools and agitators when they set out to integrate Southern bus stations. But the 89-year-old ex-governor welcomed them Friday and praised them for bringing needed changes.

"It took a lot of nerve and guts to do what they did," Patterson said after meeting 10 Freedom Riders for the first time.

The Freedom Riders were mostly college students, blacks and whites, who set out on Greyhound and Trailways buses across the South to test a U.S. Supreme Court decision banning segregation in interstate transportation. That meant no more separate waiting rooms or water fountains designated for white and colored.

After one bus was firebombed near Anniston and the Ku Klux Klan threatened and beat Freedom Riders in Birmingham, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy secured a promise from Patterson to have state troopers protect the group's bus from Birmingham to Montgomery. City police were supposed to take up the job once they crossed the city line.

Patterson kept his word, with state trooper cars and a helicopter guarding the bus. Lewis said they were so well-protected that some slept on the bus.

But when they reached Montgomery's Greyhound station, police were not there. Instead, an angry crowd fueled by Klansmen beat them, journalists and a Justice Department official — John Seigenthaler, later a well-known newspaper editor — after he came to the riders' aid.

Freedom Rider Catherine Burks-Brooks of Birmingham, now 71, said one scene will stay with her forever, revealing the depth of hatred on their attackers' faces and in their words.

"To see the expressions on white women's faces screaming, 'Kill the niggers. Kill the niggers.' That sticks with me," she said.

Freedom Rider Jim Zwerg, 71, of Tucson, Ariz., was beaten unconscious and ended up in the hospital, unable to complete the ride.

He said when he left Fisk University in Nashville to participate he had no idea of the many dangers they faced or that they would ride into history. He said the Freedom Riders were concerned about big issues, such as maintaining a policy of nonviolence no matter how hostile the foes, and little issues, such as how to pay for their bus tickets and what to do about the final exams they were missing in college.

He said he had some idea what he faced when he went to see a Fisk official about trying to make up his finals. "He said, 'If you live through it, you can come back and take finals.'"

Montgomery was also the scene of another moment of high drama in the Freedom Riders' journey.

The night after the bus station attacks, federal marshals and the National Guard had to be called in when an angry white mob surrounded the First Baptist Church, where riders and 1500 supporters including Martin Luther King Jr. had gathered. King pleaded with then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to intervene, and he ultimately persuaded Patterson to send in the Guard.

The bus station attack prompted a court order against the Klan by U.S. District Judge Frank Johnson of Montgomery and led to new federal rules guaranteeing an end to segregation in all aspects of interstate travel.

Shortly after the museum opened Friday, an exhibit recognizing Johnson's landmark rulings in the civil rights era was dedicated in the federal courthouse next door.

The old bus station was slated for demolition in 1993 to make way for an expansion of the courthouse. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson and Patterson advocated that it be spared because of its place in history. After it sat empty for many years, the Alabama Historical Commission developed the 3,000-square-foot museum with art work, photos and descriptions of what happened and the impact it had.

"The museum may be small, but its significance is monumental," Thompson said.

The Historical Commission is uncertain what days it will be open because the commission, like most other state agencies, is facing a 45 percent budget cut over two years.

The museum is within walking distance of several of Montgomery's other civil rights attractions, including the Rosa Parks Library, the Civil Rights Memorial, and Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King served as pastor when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.

Thompson, Montgomery's first black federal judge, praised the way the museum turned out, but he said, "There is no better way to forget something than to commemorate it."

He said the museum should not be a symbol that everything the Freedom Riders sought has been accomplished. He said it should reinvigorate the Freedom Riders' principles "of liberty and justice for all."

He asked the crowd: "Would you today take a bus ride under the circumstances faced by the Freedom Riders back in 1961?"


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.










Today's News

May 23, 2011

The Fruit of Promise: Citrus Fruits in Art and Culture at the Germanisches National Museum

Landmark SFMOMA Exhibition Showcases the Art and Influence of Gertrude Stein and Her Family

Sotheby's London to Offer the Earliest Surviving Manuscript for a Novel by Jane Austen

A Passion for Glass: Exhibition of Modern Glass Shines at the National Museum of Scotland

Utah Tour Guide David Lund Accused by Government of Israel of Smuggling Artifacts

"Hiroshima: Ground Zero 1945" Exhibition Drawn from ICP's Permanent Collection

Much-Loved Paris Shopping Shrine "La Samaritaine" to Become 450 Million Euro Hotel

Royal Institute of British Architects Award Winners 2011 Announced in London

Women Make Sculpture: Sarah Lucas, Polly Morgan & More at Pangolin London

Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney to Re-Open in March 2012 After Major Redevelopment

Priska C. Juschka Fine Art Presents New York City Artist Rosemarie Fiore: Artificiere

Jim Dine's Glyptotek Series of Extraordinary Drawings on View at the Morgan Library

Reinterpretation of the Ancient Three Graces Myths by Artist Francesca Lowe at Riflemaker

Phillips de Pury & Company Announces Higlights from Its Modern and Contemporary Editions Auction

Christie's in Hong Kong Announces Charity Sale of Zeng Fanzhi's The Leopard

"Paper Wars" at International Poster Gallery Shows Original War Propaganda Posters

Royal Wedding Hat Sells for Over $130,000 on eBay

Key Artist of the New Generation of Emerging Chinese Artists Exhibits at Lombard Freid Projects

Mary Moorman, JFK Assassination Photographer, Tells Where She Stood and What She Saw

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya Opens Exhibition Dedicated to the Work of Joaquin Torres-García

New Book Presents 150 Images Captured by the First Female Photographer of Mexican Revolution

George Washington Items Bring More than $167,000

One of the Last 'Beautiful Boys" Painted by Henry Scott Tuke to Sell at Bonhams

Paul Kasmin Gallery Presents a Solo Installation of Over 30 Ink Drawings by Jan Frank

artnet Auctions Announces Launch of New Design Department

Freedom Riders Get Place in History 50 Years Later

'Miracle on the Hudson' Plane Preps for Final Trip

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Presents United Sates Debut of David Clearbout Video Work

International Center of Photography Presents Exhibition by Photojournalist Ruth Gruber

artMRKT Hamptons to Debut July 14-17 at Bridgehampton Historical Society

Career of Walker Evans to Be Re-Examined in Exhibition at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme

National Air and Space Museum Presents 2011 "Become a Pilot" Day

Metropolitan Museum to Open 15 Renovated Galleries in November

Alighiero e Boetti Day: Explore the Complex, Multifaceted Figure of Alighiero Boetti

French Decorative Arts from the Estate of Dallas Socialites Ray & Clare Stern for Sale at Heritage Auctions




Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 



Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful