Lesson 9 (the Freedom Riders)
In 1961, a group of civil rights activists know as the Freedom Riders began a desegregation campaign. The interracial group rode together on interstate buses through the south to test the Supreme Courts decisions to prohibit discrimination in instate travel.
On May 14, 1961 (Mother’s Day), a Greyhound bus carrying Freedom Riders arrived in Anniston, Alabama to find the bus station locked. A mob of 50 men, including known members of the Ku Klux Klan, attacked the bus with pipes, chains, and bats, breaking windows and slashing tires. Though warned earlier of the attack, local police did not arrive until an hour after the assault began.
The police promised to escort the bus to safety, but instead abandoned it at the Anniston City limits. Once the police departed, another armed white mob attacked the bus. A firebomb was thrown into the bus, starting a fire. The white mob attempted to trap the passenger inside by barricading the doors. The Riders were able to escape the flames after the mob fled when the fuel tank began to explode. Unfortunately, once out of the bus, the Riders were attacked and beaten by the mob.
I was born in Anniston, Alabama and most of my extended family still live in the area.
Jacksonville State University (12 miles from Anniston)invited me to visit campus to present a public video projection in April, 2023. I presented "Lesson 9 (the Freedom Riders)". It consisted of two projections using archival photographs of the events and texts from first person narratives.
For this project, Hope and I will worked with the book "Buses Are A Comin’: A Memoir of a Freedom Rider" by Charles Person with Richard Rooker,