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11 May 2007

Omega Psi Phi Members to Unveil Plaque
Memorializing Freedom Riders Event


Freedom Riders Commemorated: Community leaders and regional organizations unite in honor of the May 14th bus burning.

Tomorrow morning, May 12th, a common goal will be shared, developing a greater awareness for Alabama’s rich history in civil rights and a coordinated plan for heritage tourism.


“This has been a long time coming,” says the Theta Tau Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity member Willie Duncan. “The Omegas have had this plaque made for young people and the generations yet to come so that all can reflect on what happened here,” said Duncan.


The 1961 incident occurred on what is now Highway 202, where Freedom Riders, who were traveling in buses to challenge segregation law, were violently interrupted by angry mobs. The Riders were beaten as one of the buses was caught on fire, photographed and made famous through newspaper and television reports worldwide.


“We’ve been interested in memorializing this event in a way that describes the nation’s anger but also this community’s unusual love and positive reaction” said Georgia Calhoun, President of the Choccolocco Heritage Society and member of the Alabama Historical Commission.


Indeed, most people of Anniston reacted differently than the counterparts from Selma, Birmingham and Atlanta. According to Jacksonville State University history professor Hardy Jackson, “On the whole, Anniston handled the transition from segregation to integration with dignity and calm.”


The May 12th event, on the 46th anniversary of the bus burning, unveils the Omega’s marker and identifies the place where it will be permanently displayed after the proposed property is transferred from the State of Alabama to the Calhoun County Commission. “The Commission is eager to accept this land for the Omega’s plaque,” said Commissioner Eli Henderson, “and hopefully we can do more to promote education, understanding and healing, right here and all around the state.”


According to State Representative Barbara Boyd, “Future plans for the Highway 202 parcel include an outdoor park with educational panels, poetry, and a memorial of national proportion.”


The timing for such a development is “just right,” according to Ms. Dorothy Walker, Public Outreach Coordinator for the Alabama Historical Commission, as similar projects related to the Freedom Riders are being discussed statewide. As an example, Walker describes progress on the Greyhound Bus Station project in Montgomery. The Chairman of that group, Robert Daniel, reports: “Most recently, our committee, that has been working with the Alabama Historical Commission on this project, voted to incorporate and start a long term planning and fundraising effort that will tell the story of the Freedom Riders in Montgomery and across the state.” 


“It's great that finally a coordinated, statewide effort is pending and more tangible than ever, but for today, we’re just glad to get the ball rolling and be here at this forgotten but once famous place,” said Omega member Dr. Clarence Jairrels.   “Maybe on the 50th anniversary, a more complete version of the Freedom Riders' journey will be documented here and throughout the entire state.”

For more information, contact Pete Conroy; Director, JSU's Environmental Policy and Information Center (EPIC) and Field Schools; Office: (256) 782-8010; Web address:


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