Breach of Peace

Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders by Eric Etheridge

On exhibit in the Katz Snyder Gallery
March 1 – June 4, 2011

Photographer Eric Etheridge became fascinated by the Freedom Riders, the three-hundred plus Americans--blacks and whites, men and women--arrested in Jackson in the spring and summer of 1961. They had converged on Mississippi from all over the nation to challenge segregation in bus and train stations. The Supreme Court specifically outlawed such practices, but the stations in the South continued to segregate, defiantly. The Riders were committed to integrate public transportation, even if change came at severe costs: one bus was set on fire and many Riders were beaten savagely. In Jackson, the Riders were all arrested, convicted and jailed on the charge of “breach of peace.”

Etheridge brings these American heroes to a contemporary audience by interviewing and photographing Riders today, making new portraits to set against the earlier mug shots and telling us their stories.

Breach of Peace is comprised of 40 modern day portraits accompanied by mug shots and personal stories of the Mississippi Freedom Riders. It also features a display of mementos including bus tickets, arrest warrants, protest buttons and other items from the personal collections of the Riders.

Etheridge challenges us:

What can we learn from these Americans who felt compelled to put themselves in harms’ way? How did their actions impact the nation’s life, and their own lives? How much of what they achieved is taken for granted? What work remains to be done?