Learn about the 1961 Freedom Rides

Jan 27, 2009 04:10:19 PM

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Kalamazoo, MI –

Meet Eric Etheridge, author and photographer of the recently published book Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders and Miller Green, a 1961 Freedom Rider, on Tuesday, February 24, 6:30 pm, at the Kalamazoo Public Library, 315 S Rose St.

Late in 1960, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawed segregation in terminals used by interstate bus and rail services. On May 4, 1961, thirteen people traveled south on the first Freedom to test the compliance of Southern bus stations with the ruling. This, and subsequent rides, encountered increasingly violent resistance.

Though there were Freedom Rides across the South, Jackson, Mississippi, soon became the campaign’s primary focus. More than 300 Riders were arrested there and quickly convicted of breach of peace. Author and photographer Eric Etheridge came across the mug shots of all 328 Freedom Riders in 2004.

Etheridge was “immediately captivated by [their] faces … The police camera had caught something special … The resulting portraits were compelling and intense.” He decided to publish the mug shots and, where possible, include new photos and stories of the Riders in his new book, Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders.

Miller Green, a high-school senior in 1961 and one of the Freedom Riders who inspired the book, will speak in Kalamazoo with Etheridge. About Green and other Riders, a Newsweek review revealed some of them “…remain in awe of the courage of their former selves.” In the article, Miller Green is quoted: “’It came down to a bunch of teenagers … who knew what the consequences could be… Yet we carried that [weight] on our shoulders.’”

From a recent Smithsonian.com review:

The legacy of the rides “could not have been more poetic,” says Robert Singleton, who connects those events to the election of Barack Obama as president. Obama was born in August 1961, Singleton notes, just when the riders were languishing in Mississippi jails and prisons, trying to “break the back of segregation for all people, but especially for the children. We put ourselves in harm’s way for a child, at the very time he came into this world, who would become our first black president.”

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