America, Countries, Culture

Freedom Ride through Civil Rights history

The Greyhound is more of an adventure than a coach trip but 60 years ago it was a Freedom ride through Civil Rights history.

The first group of Freedom Riders set out from Washington DC in 1961 to integrate interstate buses.

That buses were the frontline in a social revolution is hard to believe but the Civil Rights Movement saw them as a vehicle for change.

Ever since Rosa Parks refused to vacate her seat for a white passenger back in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, and thus challenged segregation.

All of which I witnessed myself on an unforgettable odyssey.

Through the Deep South taking in the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis which incorporates the Lorraine Motel room where Dr Martin Luther King was assassinated.

And the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.

King’s heirs

Iconic: Dr Martin Luther King

Civil Rights, is of course, a journey which still alas is anywhere near completion.

As Dr King himself, and his followers predicted.

And which is evidenced in the unfinished statue to the Father of the Movement in DC.

We can though track the history of the Civil Rights Movement throughout the South by visiting 120 landmarks across 14 states.

Not that you have to worry about working any of it out for yourself as our friends from Alabama have only pointed us.

In the direction of an invaluable companion book.

And when we say our friends we only mean Dr Bernice King, Dr King’s youngest.

Stuff of history

Action: The Civil Rights Movement

More on the book:

The 128-page hardcover book showcases former Southern Living photographer Art Meripol’s pictures.

The historic photos, paired with more than 200 images of the landmarks today, underscore the transformative experience of the trail and its endured relevance. 

‘The Civil Rights Trail is a one-of-a-kind cultural travel experience that everyone should visit.

‘To renew their perspective and gain a deeper appreciation for those who fought before us,” said Dr. Bernice King.

‘Each landmark across the trail serves as a reminder.

‘Of where my father and many other brave activists fought tirelessly for our fundamental freedoms so that future generations of Black Americans could enjoy a better life.’

The heroes and heroines

Legacy: With Myrlie Evers

Travellers can draw inspiration from the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And follow the harrowing stories of 14-year-old Emmett Till.

And Mississippi leader Medgar Evers, whose indomitable widow Myrlie I met in Jackson at the opening of the Mississippi museums.

Also take in the story of the Birmingham Sunday School attendees.

And the Selma voting-rights marchers and Nashville Freedom Riders.

While reading their stories and retracing their footsteps at sites along the trail. 

The magic bus

Legend: With Rosa Parks

The Greyhound is of course a misnomer as your journey goes at snail’s pace. 

But ever since I took my first one from New York to Boston with my fellow pale-faced Scots.

And mingled with Native Americans, blacks and a melting pot of nationalities.

I have sought out the bus as my preferred mode of transport in the US.

And enjoy the bus the way it should.

And consider too its place in American culture with the Freedom Ride through Civil Rights history.

The book also underscores the movement’s present-day relevance by featuring historic destinations such as the Smithsonian National African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C., alongside new memorial sites including the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. 

How to stay informed

The story: Civil Rights Trail

For more information about the book or to plan your journey on the trail, visit civilrightstrail.com.

Consumers can purchase the book from Amazon.com (will ship to the UK) or at This is Alabama.

 

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