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Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders Paperback – July 15, 2018
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"The mug shots turn out to be a remarkable exercise in folk portraiture. Seeing them side by side with Etheridge's terrific portraits of the same men and women forty-five or more years later exerts a fascination reminiscent of Michael Apted's 'Up' film series. The interview excerpts bring to life the experience these people shared—not just the rides, the arrests, and the beatings but also, in many cases, the weeks or months they spent in jail afterward, often in the fearful confines of the infamous Parchman prison farm. We learn what they were doing before the rides and what they have done since."
—Hendrik Hertzberg in the New Yorker
About the Author
Eric Etheridge has worked as an editor for magazines such as Rolling Stone, Seven Days, the New York Observer, and Harper's. The Freedom Rider portraits and mug shots have been widely exhibited. Sixteen were included in the civil rights photography show Road to Freedom, which originated at the High Museum in Atlanta and traveled to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Field in Chicago, and other venues.
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Who knows why the police photos went into the archives? Mississippi Sovereignty Commission employees were notoriously drunken incompetents (see numerous scholarly articles to that effect) and they needed to collect every shred of evidence of having shown up for work.
When the Sovereignty Commission's files were finally open to the public thanks to years of work by the ACLU, the evidence of their intimidation & spying & incompetence was astonishing.
And yet, even in the mug shots, the strength of character & idealism of the Riders showed through. Photographer Eric Etheridge made it his mission to track down those of the 500 Riders who were still alive, and persuaded many to allow him to do new, artistic, penetrating "mug shots" for posterity.
My regret is that the interviews which went with the portraits were so curtailed by the art book format. I also feel that the intensity of his approach made many people look more forbidding than they are in a more natural setting. Apparently Etheridge took dozens of photos with each interview and chose the one that was most awkward, or suited his own sensibility. They are unkind, which most of his subjects are not.
This is a valuable, powerful & revealing book, which presents to the public some of the people who have not been celebrated but who made the history while others got the kudos.
The book provides a human face to a movement -- something that is very effective here given that the participants spanned various parts of the country, different socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.
The only issue I had with it, which is minor, is that the project is ongoing, which makes the book seem incomplete. That doesn't make me regret the purchase, however. Well worth the money and time.
informative. I plan to purchase an additional book as a gift for my nephew who will be 24 nest month. He idoes not know the history of the Freedom fighters. Must read for every one who was born before and after that tera.
Most recent customer reviews
Freedom Riders; my cousin was one of them and is in the book.Read more