During February, as the nation marks Black History Month, the General Services Administration (GSA) is highlighting some of the historic sites that have played a prominent role in the fight for Civil Rights and racial justice.
Historic courthouses and other facilities in GSA’s portfolio have played pivotal roles in nation-changing events, including the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1961 Freedom Rides, and the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery March.
Some notable examples include:
Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station, Montgomery, Ala.
GSA manages the Montgomery Greyhound Bus Station in Alabama, home of the Freedom Rides exhibit. On May 20, 1961, a group of students staged a nonviolent protest at the bus station, precipitating a chain of events that led to the cessation of racial segregation in interstate travel. The terminal, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is managed by GSA and leased to the Alabama Historical Commission.
Sitting Down at Rich’s, Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, Atlanta, Ga.
In 2020, GSA joined the city of Atlanta to unveil a plaque commemorating the Atlanta Student Movement’s (ASM) protest on October 19, 1960, to desegregate the Rich’s Department Store -- now site of the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center. The plaque amplifies an existing thirty foot high tile mosaic mural by artist Mike Mandel depicting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lonnie King, and ASM protestors picketing at Rich’s for equality, justice, and an end to racial segregation in Atlanta. The October 19, 1960, protest at Rich’s marks Dr. King’s first arrest for an act of civil disobedience and stands as a seminal event in the American Civil Rights Movement.
Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals John Minor Wisdom U.S. Court of Appeals Building, New Orleans, La.
In 2015, the court was named a National Historic Landmark for its role in adjudicating some of the most critical issues of the American Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s.
In order to address southern resistance to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education rulings in 1954 and 1955, Justice John Minor Wisdom, a respected judge who served on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, developed a theory of law that helped to uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling. In this courthouse, Justice Wisdom promoted civil rights and issued landmark decisions that supported school desegregation and voter rights.
U.S. Post Office and Courthouse (Elbert Parr Tuttle U.S. Court of Appeals Building), Atlanta, Ga.
This courthouse, under Chief Justice Elbert Parr Tuttle, played a critical role in the American Civil Rights Movement as the site of a ruling (U.S. v. Jefferson) that marked a turning point in school desegregation.
U.S. Post Office and Courthouse (Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse), Montgomery, Ala.
In 1992, this courthouse was renamed the Frank M. Johnson, Jr., Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse to honor one of the country’s most distinguished judges who presided there for nearly three decades. Johnson ruled on a series of cases that changed Alabama’s system of racial discrimination, and ruled that segregated seating on Montgomery’s buses was unlawful, justifying the famous bus boycott. Additionally, he ruled that it was legal for the Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery to proceed.
African Burial Ground, New York, NY
GSA’s African Burial Ground project began in 1991, when workers discovered the skeletal remains of the first of more than 400 men, women, and children – who were free and enslaved Africans – buried in a 6.6 acre burial ground in lower Manhattan.
The finding deeply impacted the descendant and broader community and, at the same time, renewed awareness in cultural significance and historic preservation. Through the community’s activism and commitment, the African Burial Ground was awarded designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1993 and, eventually, named a National Monument in 2006.
GSA recognizes that there is far more work to be done to celebrate and honor Black history and the contributions of Black Americans. Preserving and sharing our nation’s history is critically important, and GSA is proud to mark this year’s Black History Month.