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Alabama museum unveils restored Greyhound bus for Freedom Rides' 60th anniversary
The Alabama Historical Commission on Tuesday officially unveiled a restored Greyhound bus as part of a 60th anniversary exhibit commemorating the 1961 Freedom Rides protesting the segregation of bus terminals.
The commission unveiled the bus, which was in service at the time of the protests, during a ceremony at its Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday to mark the date the first group of Freedom Riders left on a bus from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans.
Among the first 13 riders was young civil rights leader John Lewis, who went on to represent Georgia for decades in the U.S. House.
In a Friday press release announcing the ceremony, the historical commission's chairman, Eddie Griffith, said, "As we celebrate the arrival of the restored Greyhound Bus and its symbolic representation of the courage of the Freedom Riders, we also commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Rides and their impact on equal rights for all Americans."
Among those in attendance at the unveiling ceremony Tuesday were Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Bernard Lafayette Jr., one of the Freedom Riders who was attacked by a white mob on the morning of May 20, 1961, as they left Montgomery for Jackson, Miss.
The rides, which continued for several months, turned into a national movement of Black and white civil rights activists and eventually pushed the Interstate Commerce Commission to ban segregation at interstate transportation terminals.
Alabama's historical commission said that the restored bus, which now includes artifacts and a soundscape exhibit that plays music and firsthand accounts from the Freedom Rides, will become a permanent part of the Montgomery museum, which is housed in the Greyhound bus station where the Freedom Riders arrived.
Lisa Jones, the historical commission's executive director and the state historic preservation officer, said in a statement, "The Freedom Rides Museum is an integral part of this important story."
"History happened here," she added. "Preserving this place helps bring to life a critical part of the civil rights story, and the role Montgomery and the state of Alabama played in it."
Elected officials took to Twitter on Tuesday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the start of the Freedom Rides, including Vice President Harris, who wrote that it was a moment to "honor" the protesters' "courage and moral conviction in the face of violence, hate, and racism."
Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) also commended the actions of the riders, including Lewis, who the senator wrote was a parishioner at the church where he served as pastor.
"Today, let's remember their commitment to equality as we work to honor their sacrifices in our public policy," Warnock added.