Reviews & Features
Hendrik Hertzberg | Feb. 25, 2009
February is Black History Month, but no calendrical coincidence is needed to justify calling your attention to an extraordinary large-format book, “Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders.”
“Breach of Peace” was conceived, photographed, assembled, edited, and in large part written by Eric Etheridge, who has now brought the skills honed as a journeyman editor at non-trivial publications—including The Nation, Harper’s, Rolling Stone, Seven Days, George, and, currently, the Times—to bear on his own creation.
In 1998, the Mississippi chapter of the ACLU succeeded in prying open the records of the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, the secret police agency which, with Stasi-like zeal, spied on “race agitators” and other political undesirables between 1956 and 1973. . . . read the rest
Smithsonian: The Freedom Riders Then And Now
Lynell George | July 6, 2008
The story was already written: Vividly rendered on those young faces — excited, angry, naive, fearful, idealistic. But it was only the first leg of their journey. That’s what first struck Eric Etheridge when he first laid eyes on a trove of old mug shots — men and women, black and white — who came to be known as the “” Freedom Riders.”
The images, standard head-and-shoulder shots, were stored for safekeeping by the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, an agency created in 1956 to protect the state from “federal encroachment”; meaning to resist all change in the racial status quo after the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision, which had desegregated public schools. . . . read the rest
Jennifer Balderama | July 3, 2008
Flipping through the coming weekend’s Book Review, you’ll find a quadrant of faces — two pairs, each featuring a mug shot and a present-day photograph. The images are from “Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders,” by Eric Etheridge (Atlas, $45), a book chronicling a remarkable moment in civil rights history that merits a few more words than the 30 we were able to give it in print.
Historical photographs including the one above lead off the book, along with essays recalling the passion and bravery of the riders, black and white, as they pushed their way through the South in protests against segregation; the cruelty and violence that met them there; and the momentous shifts they helped stir in both the nation’s consciousness and the government’s sense of accountability. . . . read the rest
By Jennie Yabroff | June 9, 2008
Helen Singleton confronts the camera with an expression of serene acceptance. She wears a slight smile and a tidy white shirt buttoned almost to the throat. The photo could be from a passport, or a student ID—except for the chain around her neck. Hanging from the chain is a slate, and on the slate are the words POLICE DEPT., JACKSON, MISS., 7-30-61. The photo is a mug shot. When Eric Etheridge, a photographer who grew up in a small town outside Jackson, saw the picture 44 years later, he was struck by the steadiness of Singleton’s gaze. “When I looked at the photo, I thought she had such a sense of sureness in her purpose,” he says. He told her as much when he went to interview her at home in Inglewood, Calif. Singleton had a different recollection of her feelings at the moment the mug shot was taken. She told Etheridge: “I was just scared.” . . . read the rest
Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg | May 24, 2008
Five years ago, Eric Etheridge stumbled across the mug shots of approximately 320 Freedom Riders who had been arrested in Mississippi in 1961. The Freedom Riders were hundreds of people — black and white, men and women — who gathered in Jackson, Miss., to challenge the state’s segregation laws.
Mr. Etheridge, 50 years old, a Mississippi native looking for a project that could launch his new career as a photographer, saw a story that could be both fulfilling and important. He set about finding as many former Freedom Riders as possible, taking photos and interviewing them. . . . read the rest