In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 1961 ruling that made segregation on interstate transportation unconstitutional, groups of activists known as Freedom Riders began organizing integrated bus rides to parts of the South, where desegregation laws had not been enforced. On May 14, 1961, a bus of Freedom Riders pulled into a Greyhound station in Anniston, Alabama, and was met by a mob that slashed the tires and broke the windows. Fearing for everyone’s safety, the driver fled the station, but the mob followed, and when the bus’s tires went flat a few miles outside of town, the mob set the bus on fire and attacked the passengers as they tried to escape. The passengers suffered many injuries and were taken to a nearby hospital where they were then denied service and forced to go to a second hospital to be treated.


On January 12, 2017, President Obama officially designated these sites as part of the Freedom Riders National Monument, as well as other sites in Alabama critical to the civil rights movement. The lands will be managed by the National Park Service. The Conservation Fund was proud to play a role in helping protect these sites through our Conservation Acquisitions’ real estate expertise and Conservation Leadership Network’s community engagement and planning efforts.

To honor the courageous efforts of the Freedom Riders and their important place in history, The Conservation Fund worked with the National Park Service, the City of Anniston, Calhoun County and other partners to protect the site of the bus burning and the location that once housed the Greyhound station as a national monument, ensuring their permanent protection. Future plans call for an Interpretive Center at the bus station, where visitors can learn about the events of that day and take the same road as the Freedom Riders to the memorial site at the location where the bus burned.


The Freedom Riders’ efforts signified a turning point in the civil rights movement, bringing national attention that inspired many more Freedom Rides and eventually sparked new laws and policies that prohibited segregation on buses, and in bus terminals, restrooms, restaurants and other facilities associated with interstate travel.

Sharing these stories helps us heal from the wounds caused by an era of segregation and provides an opportunity to understand more about Alabama’s culture by connecting us to the land where history happened. Many of the towns and cities in Calhoun County, near Anniston, have retained their historic feel. The protected landscapes that provide the backdrop, like Little River Canyon National Park, Talladega National Forest and the Pinhoti Trail, are as much a part of Alabama’s identity as the civil rights movement.

Through our Conservation Leadership Network, The Conservation Fund and other partners worked with Calhoun County to evaluate its rich natural and historic assets and develop sustainable tourism opportunities, like the new Freedom Riders National Monument , that benefit local communities and celebrate the cultural diversity that makes Alabama so vibrant.