Freedom Rider | Activist

Freedom Rider | Activist | Author

Artist | Restauranteur


August 26, 2021 | 7:00pm – 8:30pm


Joan and Hezekiah will share stories of their early work in the Civil Rights movement and provide their thoughts on current movements. Artist Charlotta Janssen will discuss her series of portraits based on the mugshots of 1961 Freedom Riders.


Joan Trumpauer Mulholland 

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, a recipient of the 2015 National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award, is a Civil Rights Icon who participated in over 50 sit-ins and demonstrations by the time she was 23 years old. She was a Freedom Rider, a participant in the Jackson Woolworths Sit-in, the March on Washington, the Meredith March and the Selma to Montgomery March.

For her actions she was disowned by her family, attacked, shot at, cursed at, put on death row and hunted down by the Klan for execution. Her path has crossed with some of the biggest names in the Civil Rights Movement: Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, John Lewis, Diane Nash and Julian Bond. She has appeared in numerous books and documentaries and has received numerous awards and recognition for her work in the Civil Rights Movement including the 2019 International Civil Rights Museum Trailblazer Award, the 2018 I Am a Man” Award, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated Annual Award of Honor and the Anti-Defamation League Annual Heroes Against Hate Award.

In addition to being the subject of several books, her life story was also documented by her son, filmmaker Loki Mulholland, in An Ordinary Hero. The film is available to stream on Amazon Prime and can also be purchased on her website.


Click here to learn more about Joan Trumpauer Mulholland. Books on her life and other merchandise are available here


Hezekiah Watkins

Hezekiah Watkins has been a civil rights activist for vast majority of his life. At 13, he was an eight grader attending Rowan Junior High School; Hezekiah was the youngest of 328 people were arrested with the charge breach of peace” during the 1961 Freedom Rides and placed on Death Rowat Parchman Prison.

After spending time with and learning from great leaders of the movement such as James Bevel, Dave Dennis, Jerome Smith, Jessie Davis, and Jessie Harris, Watkins continued his involvement in Mississippis fight for civil rights and justice which resulted in more than 100 arrests. He continues his activism for justice as a community leader who promotes community and civic involvement in African American youths of Mississippi. His dedication to the cause of Civil Rights was recognized by Congressman Bennie Thompson in 2012.


Click here to learn more about Hezekiah Watkins. He has chronicled his experiences in his book, “Pushing Forward.”


Charlotta Janssen

Born in Maine to German parents living in America under the Marshall plan, Charlotta Janssen studied painting at the University of Arts in Berlin. In 2000, she opened a restaurant in Brooklyn to showcase her work. In 2005, she narrowed the color spectrum used in her paintings to teal, white, black and rust. In 2009, she brought collage into her works which she believes creates a conversation that keeps evolving over time. In addition to other work, Charlotta has created a series of paintings based on the mugshots of the 1961 Freedom Riders. She has also provided illustrations for several biographies of Joan Trumpauer Mulholland. Below is a statement by Charlotta regarding her work:

I start the painting with a narrow color spectrum: teal, black white and a grey iron oxide. This spectrum shifts the moment I oxidize the finished work: the grey turns into rich orange brown tones I have no control of and spill into the other colors, pushing the blue towards green and staining the white as well as the black…


Once rusted I collage or better retro-collage” the work by bringing bits and pieces of the original image pushed in colors. It is daunting to cover up ones own hard earned strokes, but the conversation between the collage and the painting is too irresistible to stop. Then I glaze lightly with oil to bring back the overall contrast of lights and shadows.


My paintings are a quilted” Americana: though figurative, I discreetly bring in abstract shapes without interrupting the figurative work – taking place with patches of collage.


Click here to learn more about Charlotta Janssen.

Pre-Session Recommended Viewing

Artist Charlotta Jenssen Pays Tribute to Freedom Riders