Event Commemorates Little Rock Freedom Rides

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Rides, the Institute on Race and Ethnicity and the Department of History at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will host a commemorative event with the City of Little Rock and the William J. Clinton Foundation on Sunday, July 10 at 2:00 p.m. on the grounds of the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, AR.

The event will include a gospel choir performance and a ceremony honoring the Freedom Riders’ stop in Arkansas, and a plaque presentation at the corner of Markham and Louisiana streets, designating the exact downtown location where the Freedom Riders arrived.

Also, UALR and the City of Little Rock will announce the creation of the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Walk. Each year, names of Arkansas civil rights activists will be placed on plaques to be set in the sidewalk that stretches from Markham Street down to the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. This year’s honorees will include the Freedom Riders who came to Arkansas, several activists who participated in sit-in protests in Little Rock, and former President Bill Clinton.

Five Freedom Riders, from the St. Louis branch of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), arrived in Little Rock on July 10, 1961 at the Mid-West Trailways bus station to test court-ordered desegregation of bus terminal facilities. They were arrested soon after arriving, but were released two days later.

UALR Chancellor Joel E. Anderson expressed the importance of recognizing the Freedom Rides. “Those who courageously participated in and supported the Freedom Rides of 1961 brought international attention to the racially-driven inequities and horrors that existed in America,” he said. “We must honor those who placed themselves in harm’s way for the cause of justice and equality in our state and our nation.”

John Kirk, chair and Donaghey Professor of history at UALR, notes that the story of the Little Rock Freedom Riders has been lost in civil rights history. “Although largely overlooked in the national story of the Freedom Rides and overshadowed in Little Rock by the 1957 school crisis, the Freedom Riders in their own way generated a signal event in Arkansas civil rights history,” he said.

For more information about the event, please contact Angela Parker.

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