Throwback Thursday: It’s been 75 years since the Freedom Train stopped in Bowling Green

75 years ago, WWII had only been over for a couple years. America was in the midst
of the post-war economic boom. As former G.I.’s re-entered the workforce, started
families, and moved into brand new suburbs, the federal government wanted to
remind Americans what freedom means. The Freedom Train was born, and it even
made a stop in Bowling Green in August 1948.

The Freedom Train was our country’s first-ever traveling American history exhibit –
one with real artifacts. The original documents authored by our founding fathers
rode the Freedom Train to over 300 locations around the continental United States
from 1946 to 1948. The real Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas
Jefferson, the Bill of Rights, and the United States Constitution’s journeys on the
Freedom Train allowed visitors the chance to see what they had likely only read
about in school books.

But the Freedom Train wasn’t just about the essential rights and liberties deemed
by the founding fathers. It was also about what modern American freedoms were
shaping up to be. In the decade leading up to the civil rights movement, President
Truman’s administration elected to desegregate the Freedom Train, allowing black
and white people the chance to view the exhibit and stand in the same line. This was
still almost 10 years before the groundbreaking Brown vs. Board of Education
Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation. Doors of opportunity were
opening for black Americans.

The Freedom Train stopped in downtown Bowling Green at the L&N Depot on
August 2, 1948. This was during the time when our depot was a hub for passenger
rail service. No passenger service has come through Bowling Green since 1976.
Many of Hollywood’s golden age stars known for traveling with the USO during
wartime continued using their influence for the Freedom Train. Famous songwriter
Irving Berlin, who wrote “White Christmas” six years prior, composed the theme for
Freedom Train, sung by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters.