By Charlene Scott
Freedom Riders Museum
The Freedom Riders Museum is located at the site of the original Greyhound Bus Station in Montgomery where the Freedom Riders arrived on May 20, 1961. They had been beaten and bombed in Anniston nine days earlier on May 11th. In Birmingham, they were sent upon by a mob of the KKK. In Montgomery they were met by a violent mob of three thousand and found refuge in the First Baptist Church.
Relating the story of all the Freedom Rides through first-hand accounts of the some 450 Freedom Riders who were under 30 year old volunteer black and white, men and women that wanted end to the segregationist policies that existed in the South. Their stories tell how, through non-violence and lion hearted courage, together they put an end to segregation on public transit. These people changed the United States for the better and did it only because it needed to be done.
This museum will open your eyes to the real story of race relations as they were in early 1960’s when the Jim Crow south was the rule of order.
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice to Peace
The recently unveiled six-acre Memorial site is designed to contextualize the horrific past of racial terror in our counties history. This is part of our collective history and these events should be remembered, recognized and reconciled. The unique memorial is comprised of eight hundred and five six foot long steel markers hung from the ceiling and etched with the names of the victims, one for each county where a lynching took place throughout the United States. The space is distinctive in the telling of its powerful story.
Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum
The Legacy Museum is located a short distance from the Peace and Justice Memorial. Built on the site of a former slave warehouse, this eleven thousand square-foot museum was erected midway between an historic slave market, main river dock and train station where tens of thousands of enslaved people were sold at the height of the domestic slave trade. The exhibits take visitors through an in depth look from the beginnings of slavery to the mass incarceration of African Americans today.
Some of the displays and recorded stories recounted here can be graphic and difficult to view but it is important we recognize and reconcile this into our mass consciousness.
Both the Peace Memorial and Legacy Museum are the singular vision of Attorney and Author Bryan Stevenson; founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative
Rosa Parks Museum
Rosa Parks is a seminal figure of the civil rights movement. She has been called the “Woman who started a Revolution” as it was her singular act of defiance that was heard around the world.
The museum is attached to the Troy University Campus in downtown Montgomery. The location sits on the old Empire Theatre just steps from where Rosa was arrested in 1955.
A short movie starts your tour recounting the situation in Montgomery on December 5, 1955 and the position of African American population. Once the scene is set, you move though the story of the incident and with the voice of Rosa to guide you. You witness her arrest after the white bus driver, James Blake asked her and her black seatmates to move from their seats due to a rush of white passengers.
In one word, “No” Rosa defines herself as a protester, not a victim. This museum is a must see to gain an understanding of the history of the civil rights movement.
When in Montgomery, I urge you to visit these essential museums that tell the history of the fight for civil rights in the South.