Eyes on the Prize Interviews – The Complete Series

29 Oct

Washington University’s Film and Media Archive and Digital Library Services are excited to announce a newly digitized resource,

Eyes on the Prize Interviews – The Complete Series.

Two years ago, the Libraries debuted the Eyes on the Prize Interviews Collection with interviews conducted for the first six episodes of the series, Eyes on the Prize: American’s Civil Right Years 1954-1965. Interview transcripts for the second series, Eyes on the Prize: America at the Racial Crossroads, 1965-1985, have now been added, making the collection complete. As a result of this collaboration between the Film and Media Archive and Digital Library Services, for the first time all the transcripts of the complete interviews, including outtakes are available online.  Researchers can now search the text of  all of the interviews conducted for the 14-episode television series.

This vast collection of transcripts was created from the interviews conducted by Henry Hampton’s film production company, Blackside, and comprises the filmed interviews that were conducted for the award-winning PBS documentary series Eyes on the Prize. Over 250 interviews were filmed for the complete series. In addition to approximately 600 preliminary audio pre-interviews, the Archive holds all the elements to the filmed interviews for the complete Eyes on the Prize series.

The transcripts, many of them never before seen, document the memories and first-hand accounts of hundreds of men and women who served on the front lines of the American Civil Rights movement. Taken together, they comprise a rich collection of valuable primary source material that is sure to be of critical interest to historians, teachers, filmmakers, and scholars of the Civil Rights era.

The interviews are part of the larger Henry Hampton Collection that the Libraries acquired in 2002. Hampton, a 1961 graduate of Washington University, produced more than 60 major films in his lifetime, of which Eyes on the Prize is the best known. Twenty years after its release, it is still considered the definitive documentary work on the civil rights movement. In total, Blackside produced nine major television series and conducted over 1,000 interviews, which are now housed at the Film Archive.

The Eyes on the Prize Interviews Collection contains a wealth of material that never made it into the final television production. Some interviews were used only in part, while others were consigned entirely to the cutting-room floor, due to production or time constraints. Because they have never been fully available until now, their potential value as historical and documentary source material is inestimable. Moreover, because the interviews have been transcribed and digitized, researchers can read them in their entirety, or search for specific terms without having to pore over thousands of pages of text. The full-text search function is invaluable for scholars, researchers and filmmakers who want to narrow down their searches and find specific results in an instant.

The complete Eyes on the Prize interviews cover the Civil Rights movement from 1954 to the mid-1980s. Key events that are discussed include the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Little Rock School integration crises, the sit-in protests, the Freedom Rides, Freedom Summer in Mississippi, the Selma to Montgomery March, the Black Panther movement, and the struggle over school integration. Blackside interviewed many of key leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, who had worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and were first-hand observers of these volatile, pivotal events in American history.

Blackside also interviewed people who were not well known or key figures but had fascinating stories to tell. Hampton conducted an interview with a previously unknown man, Frederick Leonard, who had participated in the Freedom Rides and was in Hampton’s words absolutely “riveting.” The Eyes on the Prize series was instrumental in illuminating these unknown stories.

Eventually, audio and video clips will be added to the transcripts, so that users will be able to watch or listen to the interviews preserving a complete record of the interview process.

Key interviews include

For the complete list click here.

For more information, visit the Eyes on the Prize Interviews Collection, and Washington University’s Film & Media Archive.

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