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Freedom Riders in the Smithsonian Magazine

On Sunday, May 14, 1961—mother’s day—scores of angry white people blocked a Greyhound bus carrying black and white passengers through rural Alabama. The attackers pelted the vehicle with rocks and bricks, slashed tires, smashed windows with pipes and axes and lobbed a firebomb through a broken window. As smoke and flames filled the bus, the mob barricaded the door. “Burn them alive,” somebody cried out. “Fry the goddamn niggers.” An exploding fuel tank and warning shots from arriving state troopers forced the rabble back and allowed the riders to escape the inferno. Even then some were pummeled with baseball bats as they fled.

A few hours later, black and white passengers on a Trailways bus were beaten bloody after they entered whites-only waiting rooms and restaurants at bus terminals in Birmingham and Anniston, Alabama.

The bus passengers assaulted that day were Freedom Riders, among the first of more than 400 volunteers who traveled throughout the South on regularly scheduled buses for seven months in 1961 to test a 1960 Supreme Court decision that declared segregated facilities for interstate passengers illegal.

After news stories and photographs of the burning bus and bloody attacks sped around the country, many more people came forward to risk their lives and challenge the racial status quo. Now Eric Etheridge, a veteran magazine editor, provides a visceral tribute to those road warriors in Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders. The book, a collection of Etheridge’s recent portraits of 80 Freedom Riders juxtaposed with mug shots from their arrests in 1961, includes interviews with the activists re-flecting on their experiences.

Read the rest.

Read other features & reviews (leMonde2, NYTimes, WSJ . . . )

Breach Readings in Cleveland, Flint and Kalamazoo

Miller Green, Freedom Rider

I’ll be making a swing through Ohio and Michigan at the end of February, doing my reading/slideshow at public libraries in Cleveland, Flint and Kalamazoo. Appearing with me at all three events will be Freedom Rider Miller Green (above and below). Miller was a high school student in Jackson, MS, when he was arrested on July 6, 1961. He lives in Chicago today. If you’re nearby, please come see us.

Cleveland Public Library
Sunday, Feb. 22
2PM
325 Superior Ave. N.E.
Cleveland, OH 44114

Flint Public Library
Monday, Feb. 23
7PM
1026 E. Kearsley St.
Flint, MI 48502

Kalamazoo Public Library
Tuesday, Feb. 24
6:30PM
315 S. Rose St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Miller Green, Freedom Rider

Les voyageurs de la liberté ont ouvert la route à Obama

leMonde2 Freedom Riders

Freedom Rider Frank Holloway appears on the cover of the January 18 issue of Le Monde2, the Parisian paper’s Sunday magazine. Le Monde reporter Nicolas Bourcier traveled through the south recently and talked to Riders Holloway, Hezekiah Watkins, Catherine Burks-Brooks, Margaret Leonard and Dave Dennis for their thoughts on Barack Obama’s victory and imminent inauguration.

Bourcier’s article will be available online for about a week, in two parts: an introduction and the interviews.

For those who (like me) don’t read French, Yahoo’s Babel Fish will give you the gist of what Bourcier wrote and the Riders said.

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