The city of Anniston will get a $496,375 grant from the National Park Service to restore and preserve the former Greyhound bus station made famous by the civil rights activists known as the Freedom Riders, the park service announced Thursday.
City manager Kent Davis said the grant doesn’t necessarily mean President Barack Obama will declare the site a national monument – something the city has spent months campaigning for. But it does mean the city will be able to create a Freedom Riders site even if the national monument designation doesn’t come through.
“Let’s see what, if anything, happens,” Davis said. “We still have until Jan. 20.”
National monuments are declared by presidential proclamation, and city leaders have been anxiously watching the calendar, to see if Obama will make a park designation before the end of this term.
Anniston became an indelible part of civil rights history in 1961, when black and white protesters rode interstate buses across South to test a federal ban on segregation in interstate bus facilities.
In Anniston, white mobs met buses, beating the nonviolent protesters and setting fire to one bus. The Anniston Star’s photo of the burning bus galvanized public sentiment about the Freedom Rides and became one of the iconic images of the movement.
The National Park Service announced a total of $7.75 million in grants to preserve civil rights movement sites across the country. Included in the grants were $500,000 for Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, site of a Klan bombing that four young girls; and Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, a headquarters for organizers of the Voting Rights March in 1965. The church in Birmingham is also part of a site being considered for proclamation as a national monument.