The Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station/Freedom Rides Museum
Award Type: National Trust/ACHP Award
In Montgomery, Ala., two of the Civil Rights Movement’s most significant buildings stand side by side. One is an elegant federal courthouse, from which U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. presided over crucial civil rights cases. The other is a modest Greyhound bus station where in 1961 young Freedom Riders used nonviolent methods to protest segregation.
In the 1990s, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) began planning for the expansion of the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse. Recognizing that the bus station’s location next to the Frank M. Johnson courtroom offered unique opportunities for interpreting a shared history, the GSA, the Alabama Historical Commission, the U.S. District Court, and members of the Greyhound Bus Station Advisory Committee devised a plan to preserve the bus station—and GSA agreed to lease the station to the Historical Commission for a small fee.
The commission soon developed a plan to open the Freedom Rides Museum. Transportation and state funds were used to clean and re-point the bus station’s façade, replicate the original Greyhound signs, rehabilitate the interior and develop permanent exhibits detailing the history of the bus station as well as the courthouse. On May 20, 2011, the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, the museum opened with a celebration that included remarks from original Freedom Riders, including Congressman John Lewis.
“Thanks to an innovative partnership between a federal agency, local government and private interests, visitors will now be able to fully appreciate the role both of these buildings played in the Civil Rights Movement,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We applaud the visionary leadership of federal and private partners that successfully transformed a once-humble bus station into a place where future generations will be able to learn about an important chapter in our nation’s history.”