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Freedom Riders Park planning virtual events for 60th anniversary in 2021

Freedon March

Bus loads of Freedom marchers arrive during the Freedom March at the Freedom Rider site on Gurnee Ave. in Anniston and the future Freedom Riders Park off Hwy 202. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

May 2021 will mark the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, and National Park Service officials are pondering ways to mark the event in the era of COVID-19.

“We’re going to roll out a series of virtual events,” Kris Butcher, supervisor of Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston, said Tuesday during a presentation at an Anniston City Council retreat.

Freedom Riders National Monument is the park service designation for the two sites where civil rights activists in 1961 were attacked by a white mob in Anniston while working to integrate interstate buses.

“We’re seeing a shift in what people want to see,” Butcher said. Civil War sites were once the biggest draw, he said, but now visitors are increasingly interested in civil rights history.

Federal officials are still working to prepare the bus burning site on Alabama 202 and the old bus station in downtown Anniston, though the sites already attract visitors.

Butcher said the state is well on its way to providing the site with a bus appropriate to the period. That could be ready by the new year, he said.

Work on restoration of Anniston’s old bus station could take up to three years, he said.

Butcher said the Park Service has hired Anniston’sSouthern Custom Exhibits to create a temporary display at the bus-burning site on Alabama 202.

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.