Monday, July 14, 2008

On disturbing the peace

The Papercuts blog takes a look at Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders, by Eric Etheridge:

In an introduction to the book, Roger Wilkins, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and professor of history at George Mason University, explains:

Their original protest involved riding vulnerable buses through some of the toughest territory in America at that time: Birmingham and rural Alabama, on to Jackson, then to Louisiana. As some Northern witnesses asked themselves whether these people had lost their minds, the Freedom Riders were waylaid at Anniston and their bus set on fire with them still inside (they escaped by a miracle). They were beaten in Birmingham. They kept on: through the dreaded landscape of rural Mississippi where mass arrests and the horrifying specter of Parchman, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, awaited them. Some were beaten bloody or had bones broken and skulls cracked.

The heart of “Breach of Peace” is the portraits — mug shots taken immediately after the riders’ arrests and the more recent photographs by Etheridge — and their accompanying text. The mug shots show people at the dawn of adulthood (many of the riders were students then); the faces convey defiance and weariness, but also hope and freshness. And though some of the expressions are glum, many exhibit a wry amusement, as if to say, “Yeah, you’ve got me now, but just watch what I do next.”

As always, I'm dazzled by what a few people can do to change the world.

[Post pic of freedom riders after being arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, June 2, 1961.]


Sarah Rettger said...
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Sarah Rettger said...

Okay, let's see if I can close my tags this time...

There's an excellent companion too, full of pictures and anecdotes.