‘Freedom Riders’ program to be given Thursday

Published 12:22 am Saturday, February 20, 2010

Laura Anderson, a member of the Alabama Humanities Foundation’s Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, will present “Mother’s Day 1961: The Freedom Rides in Alabama” on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 5:30 p.m., at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Demopolis.

On Sunday, May 14, 1961, two groups of passengers boarded buses in Atlanta for separate trips to Birmingham. One group rode Greyhound, the other Trailways. The passengers — male and female, black and white, students and retirees — were known collectively as “Freedom Riders,” and they rode to test Southern states’ compliance with federal interstate transportation laws.

The extreme violence they encountered in Alabama catapulted the Freedom Riders’ story into the national consciousness and cemented Alabama’s reputation as a hotbed of resistance to social change.

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Using images of the burning of the Freedom Riders’ bus outside Anniston on Mother’s Day 1961 — images from a collection housed in the Archives of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute — along with oral history interviews with persons involved in the Freedom Rides, this presentation offers a look at the participants and supporters who risked their lives in an effort to bring about Alabama’s compliance with federal law. In addition, the presentation will consider the roles of violence, the media and law enforcement in the civil rights movement.

Anderson is a native of Rome, Ga. She graduated from the University of Montevallo in 1993, and earned her master’s degree in American studies from the University of Alabama in 1996. She worked as community celebration and documentation coordinator for UA’s Program for Rural Services from 1996 to 2000. For two years after that, Anderson researched interracial aspects of the civil rights movement in her hometown, earning a master’s degree in public history from the University of West Georgia in 2002.

Since 2003, she has been employed at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where she currently serves as archivist and international oral history project administrator.

– from staff reports