By Ben Wheeler
FASCINATING historic images of the notorious civil rights campaigners known as the ‘Freedom Riders’ have been brought into the twenty-first century through the process of colourisation.
The photographs were delicately restored and transformed into colour by artist, Matt Loughrey (39), from Westport in Ireland.
The snaps depict a number of the Freedom Riders in police mug shots after being arrested for a variety of offences whilst fighting for civil rights causes.
For example, David Kerr Morton was arrested at the bus depot in Jackson, Mississippi for deliberately attempting to order a meal in the ‘negro’ section, in defiance of the segregation laws of the time.
Joan Trumpauer Mulholland was also one of those arrested and spent two months on death row in the fearsome Parchman Penitentiary for her part in one of the movement’s freedom rides.
“I think Joan’s photograph really examples innocence and resilience in a situation of total and utter chaos,” said Matt.
“But all their faces symbolize determination and resilience in the face of adversity, which was born out of racism.
“These photos remind us that people before us paved a way forward through their sacrifice, they were judged willingly in order to combat racism, taking on a cultural divide despite being punished.
“Even so, right now the world is awash with cultural divide, resentment and fear and we are still falling short in the areas of life that the Freedom Riders took on.”
The Freedom Riders were formed on May 4, 1961 by a group of 13 African-American and White civil rights activists.
The group travelled together on public buses, something that was almost unheard of at the time, from Washington D.C. to America’s deep south where white members would attempt to enter black only areas and vice-versa in order to challenge segregation in the region.
Whilst much of the original members’ first week passed without incident, on May 14 they were confronted by hundreds of white nationalists in Alabama who proceeded to bomb one of the buses and brutally beat the Freedom Riders.
However, their actions received a large amount of national and international interest, drawing hundreds of new Freedom Riders to the cause.
The rides continued for the following months and under pressure from the Kennedy administration, the Interstate Commerce Commission issued new regulations prohibiting segregated transport facilities.
Striking images like these are featured in British author Michael D. Carroll’s new book on the colourisation of historical images.