Written by Erica Stewart, Manager, Public Affairs
National Trust Trustee Sheffield Hale speaks to the Montgomery Bus Station/Freedom Riders Museum partners. Montgomery mayor Todd Strange (fourth from right) attended the celebration.
Last week, 57 years after Rosa Parks helped ignite the Montgomery bus boycott, National Trust Trustee Dr. Sheffield Hale of the Atlanta History Center traveled to the Alabama capital to help celebrate the preservation of a modest Greyhound bus station that made history and the creation of the Freedom Rides Museum that tells its story.
The Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station/Freedom Rides Museum project -- and the innovative federal, state and local partnership behind it -- was awarded a 2012 Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Award at the National Preservation Conference in Spokane last month. Organized by the General Services Administration (GSA), the December 6 event in Montgomery gave the National Trust an opportunity to bestow the award in front of a hometown crowd -- including the city’s supportive mayor, Todd Strange.
The story began in Montgomery in the 1990s, when the GSA began planning to expand the federal building and U.S. Courthouse where former U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. presided over crucial civil rights cases. The courthouse’s proximity to the bus station where, in 1961, young Freedom Riders used nonviolent means to protest segregation presented a unique opportunity to interpret their shared history.
A Greyhound Bus Station Advisory Committee was formed, and together with the Alabama Historical Commission, the GSA, and the U.S. District Court, they created a plan to preserve the bus station and create a Freedom Rides Museum that examines this pivotal time period in our nation’s history through the eyes of the court and activists.
Thanks to the vision and determination of this creative collaboration between a federal agency, local and state government -- including the Department of Transportation -- and private interests, a bus station that could have easily been demolished now stands as an enduring tribute to the bravery of these civil rights leaders and a resource for all to understand and appreciate their contribution to our country.
See the Montgomery Greyhound Bust Station/Freedom Rides project for yourself in this Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Award video:
Nominations for the 2013 Richard H. Driehaus National Preservation Awards open December 17, 2012. Learn more at PreservationNation.org/awards.