50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March

6 Mar
Henry Hampton and G. Robert Hohler marching in Selma, Alabama on the day of James Reeb's memorial service. Photo by Thomas Adams Rothschild.

Henry Hampton and G. Robert Hohler marching in Selma, Alabama on the day of James Reeb’s memorial service. Photo by Thomas Adams Rothschild.

The Selma to Montgomery March was a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. March 7, 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of  Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, when civil rights activists first attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama but were met with brutal resistance from state troopers and deputized citizens on the Edmud Pettus Bridge. A small Southern town became the focus of the entire nation and after the images of the brutalized marchers were broadcast Martin Luther King issued a call for civil rights activists to come to Selma to help continue the march. A young Henry Hampton, originally from St. Louis but working for the Unitarian Universalists in Boston, was among the people who arrived to support the marchers. He was a firsthand witness to the events in Selma during the march on Turnaround Tuesday and later spoke about what he experienced there during an interview,

I was in Selma, and it was a story that at that point—literally it was the only time in my life that I’ve ever been prophetic—it was a moment when we were standing there on the bridge, the Pettus Bridge, in Selma. There were cameras buzzing overhead…the president and federal government in all its power was there. We had terrific villains. There was a man named Al Lingo, who was the head of the Alabama State Police, that most don’t remember. They remember George Wallace but together they were a formidable opposition who were literally killing people, and I looked around and said to myself, not being a native Southerner, I looked around and said, ‘This could make a terrific movie,’ and put the idea away for twelve or fifteen years. When someone asked me the question, if you had your absolute druthers and the money, what would you do? Ten seconds it came back, it would be the television history of the civil rights movement…something fundamental changed in the country on that bridge and rarely do you get that kind of visual moment that confirms this massive shift in the way that people are going to feel about each other. It doesn’t mean that everyone loved everyone but it meant, I think, that America was no longer going to step backwards. It was going to step forward and these are important moments.”

–An interview with Henry Hampton. Conducted by Chris Lydon, 3/31/94

Hampton went on to found Blackside, Inc., and to make Eyes on the Prize, a multi-episode documentary history of the civil rights movement from 1955 to the early 1980s.  The events in Selma that Hampton was a witness to became the genesis of Eyes on the Prize, and when Hampton told the story of Selma, Alabama in episode six, Bridge to Freedom (1965), he and his producers were able to interview many of the key players from that moment, including many participants in the Selma actions including Coretta Scott King, Ralph AbernathyDiane Nash, Amelia Boynton Robinson, James Bevel, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, C.T. Vivian, James Forman, Frederick Reese, John DoarRichard Valeriani. Hampton and his producers also interviewed the political figures and law enforcement officers who were responsible for decisions that led to the clash on the bridge, Joseph Smitherman, mayor of Selma, Gov. George Wallace, Jim Clark, Sheriff of Selma. Two women who had participated in the march as children were also interviewed, Rachel Nelson West and Sheyann Webb. Given the number and range of interviews that were conducted for Eyes on the Prize, these primary source documents together give the viewer a multifaceted portrait of one of the most important episodes in the civil rights movement.

All of these primary source interviews can be found at the Eyes on the Prize Interview: The Complete Series, a project which made all the interviews from Eyes on the Prize I and II available as transcripts online.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

20 Feb

In partnership the African and African-American Studies Department, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and Cinema St. Louis, the Washington University Libraries will host a FREE screening of “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” which premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival, as part of its Henry Hampton Minority Documentarian Series.

Feb. 26 at 7:00pm
Etta Eiseman Steinberg Auditorium on the Danforth Campus

The screening features an introduction and post-film Q&A with producer Laurens Grant. Her credits include “Jesse Owens,” which she both produced and directed, and “Freedom Riders” and “The Murder of Emmett Till,” which she helped produce.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, directed by Stanley Nelson of Firelight Media, takes an in-depth look at the revolutionary culture of the 1960’s and the group that emerged from the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and early 1960’s.

In the 1960’s, ready or not, change was coming to America. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and those seeking to drastically transform the system believed radical change was not only feasible, but imminent. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change. Whether they were right or wrong, whether they were good or bad, fact is, more than 40 years after the Black Panther Party was founded in Oakland, California, the group, and its leadership, remain powerful and enduring figures in our popular imagination. THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION weaves the varied voices of those who lived this story — police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, those who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. –Firelight Media

The series is named in honor of Henry Hampton (1940-98), a St. Louis native and 1961 graduate of Washington University, where his 35,000-plus-item collection is housed in the libraries’ Film and Media Archive. Hampton’s works chronicled the 20th century’s great political and social movements, focusing on the lives of the poor and disenfranchised. The best known of Hampton’s 60-plus major film and media projects was his epic 14-part PBS series “Eyes on the Prize.” More than 25 years after its release, it is still considered the definitive work on the civil-rights movement.

The Hampton Collection contains numerous interviews and primary source material about the Black Panther Party. In the episode, Power! (1966-1968) and A Nation of Law? (1968-1971) in Eyes on the Prize II, told the story of the origins of the Black Panther Party and interviewed many party members and others connected to them, including Bobby Seale, Bobby Rush, Huey Newton, Elaine Brown, Deborah Johnson–girlfriend of Fred Hampton, Black Panther leader who was under surveillance by the FBI and killed by the Chicago police in 1969–William O’Neal, FBI informant, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, and many others.

Screening of “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” with producer Laurens Grant

6 Feb

Washington University Libraries’ Henry Hampton Minority Documentarian Series presents

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

Followed by Q&A with producer Laurens Grant

Still from "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution"

Still from “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”

Free Screening ~February 26, 2015 ~7:00 PM

Etta Eiseman Steinberg Auditorium

6465 Forsyth Blvd., Danforth Campus

Master documentarian and director Stanley Nelson, founder of Firelight Media,  goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution screened at the Sundance Film Festival in Jan. 2015. This screening, co-sponsored by African and African-American Studies Department, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and Cinema St. Louis, is an opportunity to see the film before its theatrical run. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution includes primary source interviews with Black Panther members from Chicago, Oakland, Los Angeles, and New York, as well as police officers, former FBI agents, journalists, and scholars.

Laurens Grant is an award-winning filmmaker. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution represents Grant’s third appearance at Sundance. Previously, Grant directed the documentary Jesse Owens, and produced the documentary Freedom Riders (2009) which also premiered at Sundance.

The Film & Media Archive assisted Firelight Media with research requests and queries relating to stock footage for Freedom Ridersa documentary about the 1961 attempt by civil rights activists to enforce federal law and desegregate public transportation in the South. Significant sections of footage from A Regular Bouquet (part of the Film & Media Archive’s Richard Beymer Collection) was licensed by Beymer for a film Nelson produced, Freedom Summer (2014). In addition the Archive contains many primary source interviews from Eyes on the Prize and stock footage that relate to the events surrounding the subjects of Firelight Media’s documentaries.

The free screening is the second in the Henry Hampton Minority Documentarian Series, which debuted in November 2014 at the St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) with “Through a Lens Darkly.” The series is named in honor of Henry Hampton (1940-98), a St. Louis native and 1961 graduate of Washington University, where his 35,000-plus-item collection is housed in the libraries’ Film and Media Archive. Hampton’s works chronicled the 20th century’s great political and social movements, focusing on the lives of the poor and disenfranchised. The best known of Hampton’s 60-plus major film and media projects was his epic 14-part PBS series “Eyes on the Prize.” More than 25 years after its release, it is still considered the definitive work on the civil-rights movement.

The Henry Hampton Minority Documentarian Series aims to share documentary films made by minority filmmakers or that depict the stories of often underrepresented groups with a focus on the African American experience.




RAWSTOCK: Valentine’s Day Edition

30 Jan


Washington University Libraries presents RAWSTOCK: Valentine’s Day Edition, a FREE screening of some of the most romantic educational films. Perfect for awkward first dates!

February 12, 2015 – 7:00PM – at Melt on Cherokee St.

Featuring Rawstock Bingo, valentines, and prizes!


Lost Martin Luther King Speeches Discovered

23 Jan
Trikosko, Marion S. - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

Trikosko, Marion S. – United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division

Three speeches by Martin Luther King have been re-discovered recently and made available to the public. King was a prolific speaker and traveled widely to speak to groups and convey his messages.

Prior to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, King gave a speech in London on December 7, 1964 which looked beyond the desegregation battles in Montgomery, Birmingham, and other places in South. In this  speech, King foreshadows many of the challenges he would confront in the last four years of life, the problem of poverty, and discrimination in housing and education.

In this speech he builds on the ideas written in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail,

 There are those individuals who argue that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice in the United States, in South Africa or anywhere else; you’ve got to wait on time. And I know they’ve said to us so often in the States and to our allies in the white community, “Just be nice and be patient and continue to pray, and in 100 or 200 years the problem will work itself out.” We have heard and we have lived with the myth of time. The only answer that I can give to that myth is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I must honestly say to you that I’m convinced that the forces of ill will have often used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And we may have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around saying, “Wait on time.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

The speech was recently discovered in Pacifica Radio Archives and can be heard in its entirety here.

Another speech, this one given by King at University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) on April 27, 1965 was discovered in a storage room by archivist Derek Bolin and Tim Groeling, chair of the UCLA Department of Communication Studies. King delivered this speech a month after his march from Selma to Montgomery.

A recent NPR story reported a third speech by King has been discovered on reel-to-reel tape at the New York State Museum and is titled  “Martin Luther King, Jr., Emancipation Proclamation Speech 1962.” This speech has not been heard since King delivered it as part of the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation. This entire speech can be heard here with a visual representation of King’s typescript draft showing his changes and edits.

These recent discoveries highlight the importance of archives and the role they play in uncovering and preserving important historical items.

Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

15 Jan
By National Archives and Records Administration (Army images) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By National Archives and Records Administration (Army images) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons















In advance of Martin Luther King day on January 19, we’d like to acknowledge the man on his birthday: January 15. Martin Luther King would have been 86 today and his words and actions continue to resonate today. King’s, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, was addressed not to the virulent, anti-black politicians but to a group he considered would be more sympathetic to his cause. The letter begins, “My Dear Fellow Clergymen,” and is an impassioned call for white, moderate  religious leaders to support the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham in the spring of 1963 and to re-evaluate their tepid support of the movement.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bridge to Freedom in Selma, Alabama

9 Jan

Selma, a new film about the civil rights campaign, directed by Ava DuVernay is opening this weekend. The pivotal voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama also inspired Bridge to Freedom, the sixth episode in Henry Hampton’s Eyes on the Prize. Hampton chose this campaign to end the first part of Eyes on the Prize because it was a culmination of the movement but also a turning point. Hampton’s original goal with the series was to tell the story through the words and stories of the people who made up the movement, as opposed to focusing on the leaders. Bob Hohler, Hampton’s friend and colleague, described Hampton’s approach in this way,

Henry and his staff discussed possibilities and he proposed a series on the civil rights movement. He told them of his Selma experience, of walking across that bridge and thinking what a great, dramatic film it would make. Telling the story through the eyes of the people who lived it. In fact, telling the entire story of the civil rights movement from their point of view.

–Bob Hohler (University Libraries National Council Meeting, Washington University in St. Louis, September 20, 2002)

Hampton interviewed numerous people who had participated in the Selma campaign, those who had orchestrated the violent response, and journalists who witnessed it and then publicized the extraordinary events through the national media. All of these primary source interviews can be found at the Eyes on the Prize Interview: The Complete Series, a project which made all the interviews from Eyes on the Prize I and II available as transcripts online.

One of the on-the-ground organizers in Selma was Amelia Boynton Robinson who, along with her husband, had led the drive to register African-Americans to vote in Dallas County. She was on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the first attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery. She describe the scene in vivid detail for her interview in Eyes on the Prize,

Our objective was to see the governor and let the governor know that we were demanding that we become registered voters being American citizens. We did not know that he was in cahoots with the state troopers who lined the both sides of the road while we were en route to see him…When we got to the first light across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, there was a wall of officers right across the street that we were going to march on. And we were told to stop. Don’t go any farther. Jose Williams [sic aka Hosea Williams], who was at the head said, “May I have something to say?” And through the bullhorn that was, “No, you cannot have anything to say. Charge on them, men.” And the men came from the right side, from the left side from in front of us. They came upon us and started beating us with their nightsticks. They started cattle prodding us. They started gassing us with gas. The helicopters were ahead of us, and I said to the lady who was with me, “What in the world do these people mean?”  –Interview with Amelia Boynton Robinson

Blackside also interviewed several of the law enforcement officers and public officials who were in charge and directed the actions against the protestors including Gov. George Wallace, Sheriff Jim Clark, and Mayor Joseph Smitherman. Smitherman, who was considered more moderate than Clark, described they dynamics of Selma and the campaign, as he saw them,

Joseph  Smitherman in "Eyes on the Prize"

Joseph Smitherman in “Eyes on the Prize”

They picked Selma just like a movie producer would pick a set. You had the right ingredients, I mean you would have to have seen Clark in his day, he had a helmet liner like General Patton, he had the clothes, the Eisenhower jacket and swagger stick and then Baker [Wilson Baker, Director of Public Safety] was very impressive, and I guess I was the least of all, I was 145 pounds and a crew cut and big ears. So you had a young mayor with no background or experience..and you had Sheriff Clark, that was a military figure, and you know that’s quite a scene. And you had the old South, an example of the old South. –Interview with Joseph Smitherman


Two of the youngest participants in the Selma campaign where Rachel West Nelson and Sheyann Webb (pictured above). Webb described being present on the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the attack by state troopers on Bloody Sunday,

And I remember as we approached the bridge, I was getting frightened more and more, and as we got to the top of the bridge I could see hundreds of policemen, state troopers, billy clubs, dogs and horses and I began to just cry. And I remember the ministers who were at the front of the line saying, “Kneel down to pray.” And I knelt down and I said to myself, “Lord, help me.” And once we had gotten up, all I could remember was outbursts of tear gas, and I saw people being beaten and I began to just try to run home as fast as I could. And as I began to run home, I saw horses behind me, and I will never forget a Freedom Fighter picked me up, Hosea Williams, and I told him to put me down he wasn’t running fast enough. And I ran, and I ran and I ran. It was like I was running for my life. — Interview with Sheyann Webb

Andrew Young in "Eyes on the Prize"

Andrew Young in “Eyes on the Prize”

Rev. Andrew Young, a key aide to Dr. King was also interviewed and explained Selma’s importance in the civil rights movement,

Bloody Sunday was… one of the incidents that made the Civil Rights Movement. It was also one of the things that not only did we not plan the way it happened. We were trying to call it off right up to the last minute. Dr. King had decided that we would move the movement from Selma to Montgomery and that we would march to Selma, from Selma to Montgomery, but we really didn’t set a particular date. And Albert Turner, who was our field secretary in Marion, Alabama, figured the best day to do it was a Sunday. It turned out that that was the Men’s Day in Dr. King’s church, and he had to be in Atlanta, because he pastored his church and he went back to preach just about every Sunday, wherever he was, and so we were all back in Atlanta when people began showing up in Selma to march from Selma to Montgomery. So they called me about 9:00 o’clock in the morning, and I jumped on a plane and went to Selma. And when I got to Selma, I saw, driving in from Montgomery, I saw all of the State Troopers on horseback, and I saw them with their teargas masks, but they were all standing around. There must have been a couple of hundred of them, and they were all standing around, you know, in a very relaxed sort of manner, not looking menacing at all. And so when I went across the bridge going to the church, they didn’t bother me and I didn’t stop and bother them. But we called Dr. King, and we—he had asked us to call off the march. And we persuaded him that since there were about three hundred people there, maybe they could go ahead and march, that they weren’t going to get far anyway. That we had seen the State Troopers and they were going to probably stop them and turn them around, or maybe they would—people would get arrested. So he said, “Well, OK, go ahead and march,” he said, “but don’t you all go to jail.” And we thought that what was going to happen was that we would march over there and everybody would be arrested. So, John Lewis and Hosea Williams and I, and James Bevel decided that only two should go. Well, John said, “Well, I represent SNCC, so I’ll go, and one of you all decide which one will go.” So we played odd man, and we flipped a coin and the odd man got to march, and the odd man was Hosea Williams. And…but nobody anticipated the kind of savagery and brutality that occurred. When the…when we heard the shots, the shots of the teargas canisters, I mean, you almost can’t tell from a distance, they sound like gunshots, and it sounded like somebody had opened fire on people, and then we saw people coming back screaming. We were about two blocks away from the bridge, and we went back to try to help people back, but the police were riding along on horseback beating people, and the teargas was so thick you couldn’t get to where people were in need of help, and people, I mean really three hundred people being tear gassed unexpectedly panicked. Teargas not only burns your eyes, it upsets your stomach,  and it was a kind of a combination of teargas and the same sort of nausea gases that they were using in Vietnam, and people were just wrenching and totally panicked. And so we really had to turn the church into a hospital just to get people back to their senses. And it was a horrible two or three hours. Fortunately, I don’t think there were any bones broken and not too many permanent injuries, but there was a tremendous amount of shock. And it panicked the demonstrators, but it also panicked the nation. That happened to occur right in the afternoon, right after the movie “Judgment at Nuremberg” on the Nuremberg trials, and people saw what happened in Nazi Germany side-by-side with what was happening in America in Selma, and they made the connection, and it was shortly after that that Lyndon Johnson made his famous “We shall overcome” speech. –Interview with Andrew Young













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