Tag Archives: civil rights

Freedom Riders National Monument

Overview

On May 4, 1961, an interracial group of “Freedom Riders” boarded two buses in Washington, D.C. bound for New Orleans to test whether southern bus stations were following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ended segregation in interstate travel.  On Sunday, May 14, the Greyhound bus was met by an angry mob in Anniston, Alabama that broke windows and slashed tires.  Eventually police officers cleared a path for the bus, but it was forced to stop just five miles outside town where a bundle of flaming rags caused an explosion and fire inside the vehicle.  Everyone escaped the bus although there were attempts to trap the seven Freedom Riders on board.  Joseph Postiglione’s iconic photo of the burning bus appeared in newspapers across the country, encouraging more Freedom Riders and changes to laws.

Highlights

Greyhound bus depot, Trailways bus station, site of bus burning

Must-Do Activity

President Obama established Freedom Riders National Monument in 2017, so the park is still under development, but they do already have an outstanding Junior Ranger program.  The National Park Service (NPS) has temporary displays inside its visitor center in the historic Anniston bus station and outside is a beautiful mural of a Greyhound bus and an audio recounting of the 1961 events by Hank Thomas, a survivor.  Down the road on Highway 202, the bus burning site is currently just an informational display in a field.  We were there for the 60th anniversary events, when 400 luminaria were placed to represent the total number of Freedom Riders.  Several other murals can be found around Anniston, including a second Tramways bus at Noble and 9th Street with Charles Person’s audio description of events that took place that same day. We also recommend the excellent Freedom Rides Museum (admission charged) in Montgomery, Alabama, where similar violence took place on May 20, 1961.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

In the alley next to the NPS visitor center, in front of the life-sized mural of a 1961 Greyhound bus is a lamp dedicated in August 2013 to the bravery of the Freedom Riders.

Peak Season

Spring

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/frri/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

Street parking is free outside the NPS visitor center.  To access the bus burning site, be sure to park off Old Birmingham Highway and not along the busy Highway 202 shoulder.

Camping

South of Interstate 20, campgrounds can be found in Cheaha State Park and Talladega National Forest, which also provides dispersed camping and great backpacking opportunities.

Related Sites

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument (Alabama)

Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historical Park (Georgia)

Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument (Mississippi)

Explore More – Who was the future U.S. Congressman who took part in the 1961 Freedom Rides?

Top 10 Patriotic NPS Sites

The National Park Service (NPS) system preserves some of the most important locations in American history.  Visiting many of these sites has left us feeling very patriotic and proud to be citizens of the United States of America.  Here is a list of our favorite patriotic NPS sites (click here to see all of our Top 10 Lists).

10. Golden Spike National Historic Site (Utah)

On May 10, 1869 Americans (mostly immigrants) completed the monumental task to lay 1,776 miles of railroad track linking west to east

9. Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

“The shot heard ’round the world” happened here, but the events really started in nearby Boston National Historical Park

8. Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (Maryland)

A huge American flag flies over the site that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem in 1814

7. Valley Forge National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)

We found the story of freezing and starving American troops more patriotic than nearby Independence National Historical Park where aristocrats signed a piece of paper

6. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama)

“Double Victory” was the goal of these civil rights pioneers, who never would have flown if not for…

5. Wright Brothers National Memorial (North Carolina)

…the momentous 12-second flight that occurred here on December 17, 1903

4. Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park (California)

America was successful during World War II because every citizen made sacrifices for the greater good

3. National Mall (District of Columbia)

The nation’s front lawn is home to the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, and numerous other American monuments

2. Statue of Liberty National Monument (New York-New Jersey)

Lady Liberty is beautifully symbolic, but Ellis Island represents the gritty truth of the American dream

…and finally the #1 patriotic NPS site:

1. Mount Rushmore National Memorial (South Dakota)

Inspiring during the day, but for the full effect do not miss the Evening Lighting Ceremony offered May through September

Honorable Mentions

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (Oregon-Washington)

There are numerous good museums celebrating the Corps of Discovery along the Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail that ends here on the Pacific Coast

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial (Ohio)

A 352-foot tall memorial tower celebrates less the naval victory of 1813 and more so the world’s longest undefended international border

Colonial National Historical Park (Virginia)

Victory at Yorktown ended the Revolutionary War in 1781 near Jamestown, site of the first successful British colony in America

Lincoln Memorial

Overview

Abraham Lincoln has even more National Park Service (NPS) sites dedicated to him than Theodore Roosevelt (and both are carved into Mount Rushmore National Memorial).  The Lincoln Memorial at the west end of the National Mall in Washington D.C. is by far the busiest with around 7-million visitors annually.  President Lincoln will always have his place in history for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War.

Highlights

Bookstore, statue, view of the National Mall

Must-Do Activity

The Lincoln Memorial was inspired by Greek temples and features 36 Doric columns, a giant statue of the seated man, and two large murals.  Be sure to walk to either side of the statue to read two speeches: his Gettysburg Address of 1863 and his Inaugural Address of 1865.  We looked long and hard for a penny-crushing machine at the Lincoln Memorial.  We thought it would be awesome to have that building stamped onto a penny.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

If you ever have the chance to visit the National Mall in Washington D.C., do yourself a favor and come after dark.  Seeing the white marble and limestone shining under spotlights is quite spectacular (but you might need a tripod for photographs).

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/linc/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

As with most NPS sites in Washington, D.C., it is easier to walk or take the Metro than find parking for your car.

Camping

There are no NPS campgrounds in the Washington, D.C. area, so it might be best to head for Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

Related Sites

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

Vietnam Veterans Memorial (District of Columbia)

World War II Memorial (District of Columbia)

Explore More – The Lincoln Monument Association was incorporated in 1867, but when was the Lincoln Memorial finally dedicated?

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Top 10 African American NPS Sites

Civil Rights leaders and African American pioneers are remembered at numerous sites in the National Park Service (NPS) system.  All February we have been adding posts about sites dedicated to famous Americans in honor of Black History Month.  Below is a ranking of our favorite places that we have visited.  Click here to check out all of our Top 10 Lists.

10. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

This Victorian townhouse served as headquarters for the National Council of Negro Women (1943-66)

9. African Burial Ground National Monument (New York)

A memorial to the African slaves and freedmen that lived in New York City in the 1700s

8. Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site (Virginia)

Tour the 28-room home of an African American philanthropist in Richmond

7. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site (District of Columbia)

Be sure to stop at Frederick’s original man cave “The Growlery” after your tour inside his home

6. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park (Maryland)

A museum opened here in 2017 to interpret this incredible woman’s life

5. Booker T. Washington National Monument (Virginia)

Learn about the daily life of a slave in antebellum Virginia who grew up to found Tuskegee Institute

4. Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (Kansas)

Thought-provoking exhibits fill the classrooms of an old school in Topeka

3. George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri)

The story of a Renaissance Man born a slave in southwestern Missouri

2. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (Arkansas)

Learn about school integration at the visitor center kitty-corner from this architectural beauty

…and finally our #1 African American NPS site:

1. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama)

Civil Rights pioneers in the military are celebrated at this site created in 1998

Honorable Mentions

There are seven new National Monuments created in the last decade dedicated to African American history that we look forward to visiting:

Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument (Alabama)

Camp Nelson Heritage National Monument (Kentucky)

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument (Ohio)

Freedom Riders National Monument (Alabama)

Harriet Tubman National Historical Park (New York)

Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument (Mississippi)

Reconstruction Era National Monument (South Carolina)

Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historical Park

Overview

Sweet Auburn is a neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia where Martin Luther King, Jr. was baptized and ordained as a minister in Ebenezer Baptist Church.  The National Park Service (NPS) was granted 39 acres here in 1980 to honor the Civil Rights leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.  Following his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, King’s funeral was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 4, 1968.  It is free to visit the NPS museum, birth home, and affiliated Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Highlights

Museum, Ebenezer Baptist Church, MLK birth home, Reflection Pool tomb

Must-Do Activity

Inside the NPS museum, immersive audiovisual bubbles take visitors through the life of this prominent Civil Rights protestor.  A short walk is required to enter his boyhood home (which is wheelchair accessible).  Silence is mandatory while inside.  Outside the neighboring King Center, the Reflection Pool contains the tombs of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King, as well as an eternal flame. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

When reviewing this picture, Tiff swore she thought Gandhi was holding a selfie stick and was wearing sunglasses.

Peak Season

Spring and fall

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/malu/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

A large, free parking lot is located north of the NPS visitor center.

Camping

Campgrounds are located outside Atlanta at the Corps of Engineers’ Lake Sidney Lanier and Forest Service’s Chattahoochee National Forest.

Related Sites

Martin Luther King, Jr.  National Memorial (District of Columbia)

Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument (Mississippi)

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (Georgia)

Explore More – How was Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mother also tragically killed by gunshot in 1974?