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April 10, 2020


Alabama Historical Commission Receives Three

National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grants


(Montgomery, AL) The Alabama Historical Commission (AHC), the State Historic Preservation Office, is the recipient of three African American Civil Rights grants through the National Park Service.  In total, AHC was awarded $600,000 of NPS funds for the Freedom Rides Museum, Moore Building, and a multi-site nomination for Montgomery, AL. The African American Civil Rights grant program is funded by the Historic Preservation Fund and administered by the National Park Service, Department of Interior.


In 2018, Congress appropriated funding for the African American Civil Rights (AACR) Grants program through the Historic Preservation Fund. This year’s Alabama grant recipients include a diverse range of projects including the collection of oral histories of foot soldiers along with rehabilitation, restoration and repair of historic churches and two libraries.

Alabama Representative Terri Sewell is a champion for Alabama’s historic sites, particularly those related to the Civil Rights Movement. Securing funding to ensure the preservation of crucial civil rights history has been one of Rep. Sewell’s top priorities since coming into office, and she has worked tirelessly to secure adequate funding through the National Park Service. This round of funding has been allocated for sites in Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Selma. 


“Even as we remain laser focused on doing everything within our power to prevent the spread of COVID-19; we must still remember the importance of investing in the preservation of the remarkable history of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District,” said Representative Sewell. “Our history is one of joining together as a community to persevere in the face of insurmountable odds, a history that we are collectively leaning on in the face of this pandemic. I am grateful for this meaningful investment from the National Park Services, understanding that in reflecting on our history we may forge a better future.”


“These funds from the African American Civil Rights Grant Program will specifically enable the Alabama Historical Commission to further preserve and highlight the saga of the 1961 Freedom Rides as they occurred in Montgomery,” said Lisa D. Jones, Executive Director, Alabama Historical Commission. “We are deeply appreciative of Congresswoman Sewell’s dedication to our state and her ongoing efforts to illuminate the world-changing history made here in Alabama.”


The first award is a $500,000 grant for the second phase rehabilitation effort of the historic Moore Building, the structure across from the historic Greyhound Bus Station that witnessed this campaign of the Civil Rights Movement. The second award is a $50,000 grant that will be used by the Freedom Rides Museum for exhibit fabrication as they reimagine the interpretive space within the complex. The third grant for $50,000 is for the completion of a Multiple Property Documentation form that will serve as a basis for evaluating National Register of Historic Places eligibility of locations connected to the Modern Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery, AL. Unlike Selma and Birmingham, Montgomery does not have a cohesive narrative or documentation of what happened before and during the Modern Civil Rights Movement, as defined by the National Park Service from 1954 to 1968.


“The announcement by the National Park Service of African American Civil Rights grants to the Alabama Historical Commission is welcome news at a time when there is a thirst for insight into the role that Montgomery and the State of Alabama played in kindling the Civil Rights Movement in this country,” said Eddie Griffith, Chairman of the Alabama Historical Commission. “These grants will allow the AHC to enhance the experience of our visitors from around the world who are coming to Alabama for a better understanding of the people and conditions that led to the movement.  We are also pleased to see grants to our partners throughout the state for preservation of their sites and in telling their stories.”


A property of the Alabama Historical Commission, the Freedom Rides Museum is located in the 1951 Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station and is one of few Alabama state-operated Civil Rights sites. In the 2000s, AHC restored the exterior of the building to its 1951 appearance and opened the museum on site in 2011, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides. The museum hosts a series of programs and rotating exhibits, with the current exhibit installed in 2014.


In 2021, the AHC and the nation will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. “We appreciate the National Park Service and Congresswoman Sewell for their generous support of the Freedom Rides Museum as we develop plans for a nationwide tribute to these heroes,” said Dorothy Walker, Site Director, Freedom Rides Museum. “We are honored to share the story of their courage and commitment to justice and equality for the thousands of visitors from around the world who visit the Freedom Rides Museum each year.”


The 1961 Freedom Rides were a watershed event, one Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described as “a psychological turning point in our whole struggle.” The historic bus station stands today as a testament to the effectiveness of nonviolent direct-action protest and how these methods were employed by ordinary citizens to garner broad support for the civil rights movement from national leaders. The Freedom Rides Museum profiles the courageous actions of more than 430 ordinary people who risked their lives and freedom for equal treatment under the law and is one of only two sites in the nation exclusively dedicated to interpreting the Freedom Rides and its enormous impact on American civil rights history.


In early 2018, the National Park Service funded the first phase of an exhibit plan for the Freedom Rides Museum. Moving forward, AHC selected Ralph Appelbaum Associates, an internationally recognized museum design firm that has planned exhibits in the United States Holocaust Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Also in 2018, the Commission was gifted a vintage 1958 Greyhound Bus by the Greyhound Bus Museum in Hibbing, MN. With donated funding support in place for the bus renovation, it is presently being restored and enhanced as a state-of-the-art mobile museum to tell the story of non-violent protest. Appelbaum and Associates designed the plan for the bus exhibit. The bus will debut in 2021 for the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. 


Situated at the corner of South Court Street and Adams Avenue, the historic Moore Building overlooks the city street where a violent mob of hundreds met the Freedom Riders as they arrived at the Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station on May 20, 1961. The riot spilled onto the streets and sidewalks; Freedom Riders, among them future Congressman John Lewis, and members of the media, were attacked as they peacefully protested for integrated interstate transportation. Several Freedom Riders escaped their attackers through the federal building next door while bystanders watched from the entryway of the Moore Building. The attack was part of a series of local events that led the Kennedy Administration to side with the civil rights protestors for the first time and inspired federal Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. to pass a series of rulings that shape civil rights laws to this day.


The $500,000 NPS funding will bring the c. 1942 Moore Building back to public use and increase the Freedom Rides Museum’s sustainability and interpretive impact. It will also provide a platform for a broader, deeper story of Montgomery’s history, such as the economic pressures imposed by those opposed to the Civil Rights Movement from groups like White Citizen Councils. The addition of finished space on the ground floor of the Moore Building will provide the opportunity for the Freedom Rides Museum to enhance and expand cross-generational programing, interpretation, partnerships, and community engagement, increasing visitation, support, and sustainability.


About the Freedom Rides Museum
Working with concerned citizens, The Alabama Historical Commission saved the Greyhound Bus Station from demolition in the mid-1990s. The Museum is located at the intersection of S. Court St. and Adams Avenue in downtown Montgomery. An award-winning exhibit on the building's exterior traces the Freedom Riders' history. It uses words and images of the Freedom Riders, those who supported them, and those who opposed them. Interior exhibits highlight additional information on the Freedom Riders and the way in which buildings were designed for racial segregation. Today, the Alabama Historical Commission operates this significant site.


About the Alabama Historical Commission

Located in historic downtown Montgomery at 468 S. Perry Street, the Alabama Historical Commission is the state historic preservation agency for Alabama. The agency was created by an act of the state legislature in 1966 with a mission to protect, preserve and interpret Alabama’s historic places. AHC works to accomplish its mission through two fields of endeavor: Preservation and promotion of state-owned historic sites as public attractions; and, statewide programs to assist people, groups, towns, and cities with local preservation activities. For a complete list of programs and properties owned and operated by the AHC, hours of operation, and admission fees please visit  




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