Synopses & Reviews
In the spring and summer of 1961, several hundred Americans--blacks and whites, men and women--converged on Jackson, Mississippi, to challenge state segregation laws. The Freedom Riders, as they came to be known, were determined to open up the South to civil rights: it was illegal for bus and train stations to discriminate, but most did and were not interested in change. Over 300 people were arrested and convicted of the charge "breach of the peace."
The name, mug shot, and other personal details of each Freedom Rider arrested were duly recorded and saved by agents of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, a Stasi-like investigative agency whose purpose was to "perform any and all acts deemed necessary and proper to protect the sovereignty of the state of Mississippi." How the Commission thought these details would actually protect the state is not clear, but what is clear, forty-six years later, is that by carefully recording names and preserving the mug shots, the Commission inadvertently created a testament to these heroes of the civil rights movement.
Collected here in a richly illustrated, large-format book featuring over seventy contemporary photographs, alongside the original mug shots, and exclusive interviews with former Freedom Riders, is that testament: a moving archive of a chapter in U.S. history that hasn't yet closed.
"[A] remarkable book. . . . We see a collective portrait marked by a combination of fear, good humor, and above all extraordinary courage and commitment in the face of virulent and sometimes violent racism. [An] absolutely inspirational work--one of the most powerful experiences a reader can have.
" Library Journal
"Breach of Peace literally gives faces to the faceless and anonymous heroines and heroes who changed America in 1961." Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP
"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 afterwards....We learn what they were doing before the rides and what they have done since....[Etheridge's] solid feel for his subject is evident throughout this marvelous, moving book." Hendrik Hertzberg
A beautifully-produced book that celebrates the Freedom Riders, featuring rare-seen mug shots alongside stunning contemporary portraits.
About the Author
Eric Etheridge grew up in Carthage, Mississippi. He is a former editor at Rolling Stone, The New York Observer and Harper's. He lives in New York City.
Diane McWhorter is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama--The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution and a long-time contributor to the New York Times.
Roger Wilkins is a journalist whose editorials about the issues leading up to President Richard Nixon's resignation won him a Pulitzer Prize; he is also a distinguished professor of history at George Mason University.