A family made amends for a 60-year-old crime at Saturday’s Freedom Riders anniversary event on Gurnee Avenue in Anniston. Read the full story
The husband-and-wife duo of doctors were highly educated immigrants who embraced life in America and bolstered the communities in which they lived, including Anniston.
Local leaders brought in two refurbished mid-century buses Friday for a ceremony to honor two of the original Freedom Riders on the 60th anniversary of their arrival in Anniston.
In the spring of 1961, an interracial group of 13 “Freedom Riders” set out to challenge discriminatory state laws and local custom that required races be separated on buses and in bus station facilities. By the end of 1961, over 400 Freedom Riders risked their lives criss-crossing the South on more than 50 Rides.
Within hours of the attack, FBI agents were out in force in the community, knocking on doors and gathering evidence. They interviewed dozens of residents, and encountered considerable resistance among the white population of Anniston.
The students did not give up. It's an attitude that carried them through a successful movie theater integration campaign and toward the Freedom Rides. While they were celebrating their victories, they also heard about the defeat of the Freedom Riders in Alabama.
The only surviving arrestee from the infamous 1961 bus-burning attack on civil rights Freedom Riders traveling the South says: “I was blind, but now I see.”
Historically, Calhoun County native Kenneth Lamar Adams is most remembered for his involvement in two violent events: the 1956 assault in Birmingham of singer Nat King Cole and his role in the 1961 attack on the “Freedom Riders” just outside Anniston.
The Page 1 article was, of course, important enough to present with eye-catching typographic treatment — the first two paragraphs received larger print. It was positioned in the top right corner of the page, where the biggest news of the day normally goes.
People who picked up the Sunday edition of the Anniston Star that morning would learn that peace talks were underway between warring factions in Laos and the Alabama Legislature was fighting over redistricting. There was no mention of the Freedom Riders.
When the call came into the Anniston fire department, firemen Joe Evans and Enoch Hughes rushed out of Station 4. They had heard about the violence that had taken place at the bus station on Gurnee Avenue.
Charles Person, a college student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, decided to take part in the Civil Rights Movement. He was only 18 years old and needed parental permission.
At about 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 14, 1961, 19-year-old Howard University student Henry “Hank” Thomas came into Anniston with 17 other passengers on a Greyhound bus.
I remember this event vividly, not just because it was a moving recognition of that pivotal moment in the civil rights movement and Anniston’s history, but because it differed so drastically from what I had found upon moving to Anniston.
“It’s our responsibility to facilitate opportunities for them to understand why the world is the way it is,” said Kathryn Gardiner, lead park ranger of the Freedom Riders sites in Anniston and Birmingham.
Original Freedom Rider Charles Person and local leaders intend to train a new generation of protesters — and the police who respond to protests — at the Freedom Riders Training Institute.
Gov. Kay Ivey was in Anniston to speak at a memorial for fallen law enforcement officers, and afterwards held a brief discussion with the press about current issues.
Gov. Kay Ivey spoke at Centennial Memorial Park in Anniston at a ceremony to honor officers who lost their lives in the line of duty over the last two years.