Historic marker commemorating the Freedom Riders in downtown Anniston
Historic marker commemorating the Freedom Riders in downtown Anniston

On 14 May 1961, during the American Civil Rights Movement, a mob bombed a bus filled with civil rights Freedom Riders when two buses were setting out to travel the south in protest of their civil rights following the Supreme Court case saying bus segregation was unconstitutional.

Bombing

On Sunday, May 14, Mother's Day, in Anniston, Alabama, a mob of Klansmen, some still in church attire, attacked the first of the two Greyhound buses. The driver tried to leave the station, but he was blocked until Ku Klux Klan members slashed its tires.[1] The mob forced the crippled bus to stop several miles outside town and then threw a firebomb into it.[2][3] As the bus burned, the mob held the doors shut, intending to burn the riders to death. Sources disagree, but either an exploding fuel tank[2] or an undercover state investigator who was brandishing a revolver caused the mob to retreat, and the riders escaped the bus.[4] The mob beat the riders after they got out. Warning shots which were fired into the air by highway patrolmen were the only thing which prevented the riders from being lynched.[2] The roadside site in Anniston and the downtown Greyhound station were preserved as part of the Freedom Riders National Monument in 2017.

Some injured riders were taken to Anniston Memorial Hospital.[5] That night, the hospitalized Freedom Riders, most of whom had been refused care, were removed from the hospital at 2 AM, because the staff feared the mob outside the hospital. The local civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth organized several cars of black citizens to rescue the injured Freedom Riders in defiance of the white supremacists. The black people were under the leadership of Colonel Stone Johnson and were openly armed as they arrived at the hospital, protecting the Freedom Riders from the mob.[6][2]

When the Trailways bus reached Anniston and pulled in at the terminal an hour after the Greyhound bus was burned, it was boarded by eight Klansmen. They beat the Freedom Riders and left them semi-conscious in the back of the bus.[citation needed]

See also

References

  1. ^ ""Freedom Riders," WGBH American Experience". PBS. Archived from the original on December 24, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d "Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961". NPR. Archived from the original on April 17, 2008. Retrieved July 30, 2008.
  3. ^ Photo of a Greyhound bus firebombed by a mob in Anniston, Alabama Archived June 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved February 1, 2010.
  4. ^ Branch, pp. 412–450.
  5. ^ "Anniston Memorial Hospital Marker - Historic Markers Across Alabama". www.lat34north.com. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  6. ^ . "With the police holding back the jeering crowd, and with the deacons openly displaying their weapons, the weary but relieved Riders piled into the cars, which promptly drove off into the gathering dusk. 'We walked right between those Ku Klux,' Buck Johnson later recalled. 'Some of them had clubs. There were some deputies too. You couldn't tell the deputies from the Ku Klux."Get On the Bus: The Freedom Riders of 1961". NPR. Archived from the original on April 17, 2008. Retrieved July 30, 2008.