Freedom Rider/Breach of Peace opening party tonight at the Mississippi Museum of Art -5:30 to 7. Come on down.

The Mississippi Museum of Art is throwing an opening reception tonight for my show, Breach of Peace: Portratis of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders. The mugshots of all 329 Riders arrested in Jackson in the spring and summer of 1961 are on view in a giant, 54' long mural (partial view above), along with about 20 of my portraits.    

The museum sits virtually on the site of the Trailways station, where many of these Riders were arrested. 

5:30 to 7. Come on down. 

Installation in progress: First five rows of the Freedom Rider mug-shot mural are up at @msmuseumart!

Yesterday the good folks at the Mississippi Museum of Art installed the first five rows of the Freedom Rider mural. Three rows to go, and then the mug shots of all 329 Riders arrested in Jackson in 1961 will be up. They're arranged chronologically, by date of arrest. Below the mural will hang 16 of my Rider portraits.

The wall is 54' long and 18' tall, and the focal point of the museum's great hall, which has some fancy donor name. I think of it as the Dunlap Wall, since it is normally the home of a great Bill Dunlap mural. 

In a sense, the mug shots have now come full circle. The museum sits virtually on the site of the Trailways station, where many of the Riders were arrested.    

The conference table in the foreground is in place for a meeting Saturday of the local group organizing Return of the Freedom Riders, the 50th Anniversary celebration in Jackson May 22 -26. 

"Breach of Peace" at the MMA opens Saturday, and runs through June 12.  

"So Free From Stain": Mississipi secedes from the Union 150 years ago today

Mississippi seceded from the union on January 9, 1861, by a vote of 84 to 15 at a convention in the state capital in Jackson. To explain its decision, the delegates issued a "A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union," which begins: 

In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.


Read the rest:

Top and above, Civil War statue in Cleveland, MS

A Future for the Money Store?

On his blog today Jerry Mitchell reports that an anonymous businessman has set his sights on buying the old Bryant store in Money, MS, and restoring it.

Bryant Grocery and Meat Market has been broken by years of neglect and battered by high winds from Hurricane Katrina, but few have forgotten the events during the summer of 1955 that started here with a wolf-whistle and ended with the slaying of an African-American teenager named Emmett Till.

Now a businessman has put up a website, hoping to restore the fallen store, included in a list of Mississippi’s most endangered historic places.

I'm not sure how exactly launching a website is a prelude to a successful real-estate deal, but so be it. Good luck to him if he can pull it off. It will probably take a private effort to get the ruin into public hands. The word around the state is that the owners have always set a steep price as a way of preventing anything from happening with the old building -- too high especially for any state agency to afford, even in earlier, less dire times.

On his website, the anonymous businessman says his plan is "to fund the restoration process and use the building as a museum for Emmett Till and the civil rights movement that followed his tragic death."

I've always wanted to see the ruin restored as a ruin and a museum built nearby. Given the building's current state of near-collapse, a restoration would more than likely mean a wholesale replacement of the existing structure, and thus the loss of any physical connection with the events of August 28, 1955, as well as the subsequent 55 years. I'm not sure it can even be preserved as a ruin, but in that form, as in its current form, it would convey much more vividly and powerfully than any clean and tidy museum the history of race in Mississippi.

In so many ways, Mississippi is still a wreck. 

Photographed on December 29, 2008

Cocoon Greenwood


Kate Browne, my wife, built the third in her series of Cocoons in Greenwood, Mississippi, during two weeks in July. The sculpture sits in a park on the banks of the Yazoo, which flows through downtown Greenwood, on the opposite side of the river from where bales of Delta cotton were once loaded onto riverboats for shipment. Cotton Row, as the strip was once know, now principally houses the offices of the Viking corporation (as in makers of all things kitchen). Keesler Bridge, in the background of some of these pictures, used to pivot on its center column to allow riverboats to past. Behind the bridge sits the Leflore Country Courthouse.

Greenwood was the site of intense Civil Rights activity in the early '60s, and in 1966, during the Meredith March (aka, the March Against Fear), where Stokely Carmichael chose to deliver his infamous Black Power speech.

Kids and adults from all over town eagerly pitched in to create this Cocoon. Kate will be posting images of the build and describing the process at her blog in the coming weeks. You can also get info there on her two earlier Cocoons, in Mexico City and upstate New York.