Now, a half century after the Freedom Riders first arrived in this city, the Montgomery bus depot has been converted, with the help of the Alabama Historical Commission and historians, such as Raymond Arsenault, into the Freedom Rides Museum – a timely monument to a groundbreaking journey.
In fact, says Dr. Arsenault, the John Hope Franklin professor of Southern history at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, and the author of a critically acclaimed book on the Freedom Riders, it is no stretch to say that the protests in Alabama helped change the tone for the racial equality movement as a whole.
"It really took the struggle out of the courtroom, and into the streets – it helped convince other people that direct action was needed," Arsenault says. "Even today, people are still astonished by the physical and moral courage of the Freedom Riders."
Arsenault adds: "For us, in the 21st century, the idea that the Freedom Riders put their bodies on the line for a principle, it restores our faith in the idea of personal empowerment."