Established in Alabama by Barrack Obama in 2017, Freedom Riders National Monument is a must-see monument for RV lovers interested in the Civil Rights Movement. The history of the Freedom Riders dates back to 1961 when interracial activists known as “Freedom Riders” challenged the non-enforcement of the United States Supreme Court decisions of Morgan v. Virginia and Boynton v. Virginia. These decisions ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional, however, in a lot of states racial segregation on public buses was still happening.
The actions of the Freedom Riders were not accepted by many of Americans and famously they were attacked via firebomb by white segregationists. These images appeared in hundreds of newspapers, shocked the wider American public, and spurred the Federal Government to issue regulations that finally banned segregation in interstate travel.
The Freedom Riders National Monument is located over two different sites in and around Anniston, Alabama that were historically significant to the events that unfolded. The first site is the old Greyhound Bus building where a group of segregationists attacked the bus carrying African American and white Freedom Riders. The second is located around six miles from the Greyhound station where the bus was burnt. While you are in Anniston also check out the Anniston Civil Rights and Heritage Trail. This trail includes nine sites associated with the struggle for civil rights in Anniston, including the Greyhound Bus Station.
While there are no RV-friendly campgrounds at the Freedom Riders National Monument there are many to choose from within the Talladega National Forest, including two "improved" campgrounds at Cheaha State Park. The Freedom Riders National Monument is open all year round and the visitor center is open Monday through Friday.
Getting to and from the two locations that encompass the Freedom Riders National Monument is very straightforward thanks to them being near major roads in and around Anniston. The bus mural and educational panel is on the site of the old Greyhound Building within Anniston on Gurnee Avenue. The street is a normal street that features no obstacles that would prevent you from driving your RV to the mural.
If you are wanting to visit the site where the bus was burned, you can do so as it is on the Old Birmingham Highway. This site contains an educational sign that acknowledges the date and actions that occurred and it can be visited at any time of the year. This location is easy to find if you enter it into your GPS but if you are trying to find it without satellite navigation it may be difficult as the sign is quite small off the old highway.
Parking near the Freedom Riders National Monument within Anniston can be difficult as the area has mostly street parking. If you are traveling in a large RV you might be better parking on a main street and walking down to the mural.
Parking at the Old Birmingham Highway can be done off the highway on Blackwood Drive. Here you will find many parking spots that are free to use while you check out the sign.
There are no public transport options available that will take you to the Freedom Riders National Monument.
Located around 20 miles south of the Bus Mural at Freedom Riders National Monument is Cheaha State Park. The park is the best place for RV lovers looking to camp near the monument and should only take you around 30 minutes to drive there. There are multiple campgrounds available for you to choose from, but your best bet would be either Campground #1 or Campground #2 as they have 20, 30, and 50 amp electric hookups, along with water and sewer hookups.
Campground #1 is open all year and features 40 sites while Campground #2 is only open from April to December and has 32 sites. If you are looking to stay closer to Cheaha Lake and are traveling during the summer, then Campground #2 is likely prefereable.
Both campgrounds contain bath houses that have hot water, showers and toilets and each site will have a picnic table and a fire ring/barbecue grill available for you to use. Reservations can be made online or by phone.
The most popular of the two Freedom Riders National Monument sites to visit is the mural. Located at the old Greyhound Bus building where the bus was originally attacked, the site was owned by the City of Anniston before it was donated to the United States Government.
At this site the mob first attacked the bus and its tires were slashed and rocks were thrown at it which broke some windows. The mural also features educational panels describing the incident. The mural is open all year round for you to observe.
Located around six miles outside Anniston is the site where the bus was burned down by the mob. The bus had to pull over here as the slashed tires gave out. Someone threw a bundle of flaming rags into the bus that then exploded. The famous photos were taken by freelance photographer Joseph “Little Joe” Postiglione.
The site is now marked with an Alabama Historical Marker and features a small sign that describes what happened there. The area is available to visit all year round.
Along with the two sites that make up the Freedom Riders National Monument there are also other culturally significant landmarks that played a role in the Freedom Riders saga that are a part of the Anniston Civil Rights and Heritage Trail. The Anniston Memorial Hospital is on this trail and is where the riders headed next after the bus burnt down. The hospital provided little treatment before they were then attacked by a white mob.
They were eventually saved by deacons from the Birmingham’s Bethel Baptist Church that rescued them and drove them to Birmingham. The hospital is marked with a sign and can be visited throughout the year.
Another spot on the Anniston Civil Rights and Heritage Trail that is related to the Freedom Riders is the former Trailways Station. Here a second group of Freedom Riders stopped before leaving for Birmingham. They were forced to segregate on the train by white men and also harassed until they reached Birmingham. The former Trailways Station now features a mural and educational panels that you are free to visit any time of the year.
The largest tourist attraction in city of Anniston is the Anniston Museum of Natural History. The museum exhibits more than 2,000 natural history items that are on permanent display, including fossils, minerals and rare animals in open dioramas. The museum dates back to the 1930s when Severn Regar, who moved his family and textile business, offered his personal collection of historical objects and biological specimens to the city of Anniston. The museum is open at differing hours throughout the year depending on the season.
Along with having two RV campgrounds that are great to stay in if you are visiting the Freedom Riders National Monument, Cheaha State Park is also perfect to check out if you want to get out in nature.
There are many activities available within the park, including swimming, mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, fishing, and even gem mining. The park is open all year round.