Archive | October, 2011

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Civil Rights Leader from Alabama, Dies at 89

24 Oct

Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a major figure in the Civil Rights movement, and a key interviewee in Henry Hampton’s series Eyes on the Prize, died on October 5 at age 89. Shuttlesworth was instrumental in the Birmingham Crusade protest which riveted the nation in 1963.

The full transcript of Blackside’s interview with Rev. Shuttlesworth is available online, along with all interviews conducted for Eyes on the Prize I and II.

Rev. Shuttlesworth had been fighting segregation and racism in Birmingham, Alabama for many years before 1963. He was a member of the Alabama chapter of the N.A.A.C.P and a co-founder of TheĀ  Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) along with Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Shuttlesworth’s interview with Blackside, he vividly describes the times, his experiences, and the reader has a visceral sense of what it must have been like to live through those experiences. He was the target of violence and intimidation more than once, and he describes the charged climate in Birmingham at that time in his interview.

And of course you must remember that there were bombings…over 35 or 40 bombings in Birmingham, Alabama. We thought about changing the name to “Bombingham” instead of that. We always said that Birmingham’s heart was hard and black like the coal is mined, hard as the ore and the steel is made, it’s a magic city, but it was a tragic city…yet, we lived it and we survived under that. There had to be a change.

Rev. Shuttlesworth came to national attention with a protest in Birmingham he called, Project-C. C stood for “confrontation,” and reflected a call to action as opposed to conciliation. After an unsuccessful protest in Albany, GA, SCLC decided to try to desegregate the downtown shopping district. Shuttlesworth described the decision-making process in his interview,

SCLC needed something and I said, Birmingham is where it’s at, Gentlemen. You all must come to Birmingham and let’s do this, coming out of Albany, which was what many people considered not a victory. They needed a victory. Dr. King’s image at this time was slightly on the wane because he had not projected…we had threatened in literature to fill the jails. We did it in Birmingham…and we invited Dr. King in Birmingham to confront segregation. Massively nonviolent, with our bodies and our souls.

The campaign began as a series of marches and sit-ins which resulted in mass arrests. The goal was to continue to fill the jails and draw attention to their cause. As the campaign ran out of adult protesters, Shuttlesworth turned to younger Civil Rights activists including very young people in high school. Tensions escalated and the official response of the City of Birmingham, driven by Eugene “Bull” Connor was brutal.

Connor’s method of dealing with the protesters was to turn fire hoses and attack dogs on the protesters. These violent and turbulent images were recorded and broadcast by the media and had a national and global impact. Much of this footage was gathered by Hampton and included in Eyes on the Prize. Despite pressure to end the marches and protests, Shuttlesworth continued the campaign. The images of violence and brutality inflicted on young people via Bull Connor’s orders had a profound effect on the nation’s conscience, and galvanized the movement as Shuttlesworth had predicted. These events helped focus the nation’s attention the issue of segregation and led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Shuttlesworth’s bravery and determination stand out in his interview. After surviving a bombing at his house in 1956, he described the experience,

It blew the floor out from under my bed…The springs that I was lying on we never found them. There I was lying on the mattress. I knew the relevance of Moses’ statement when he said, “Underneath the everlasting arm.” The roof came down…This is a strange thing, I knew that the bomb was meant for me. I knew what it was, and instantaneously, at the same time I had a sense of presence that I wouldn’t get hurt. I knew that. You can know something you never read. And I might say to you at that moment all fear was taken from me. I never feared anything since that time…I lived and walked out of that movement, I walked out from this instead of running away from the blast, running away from the Klan, I said to the Klansman police that came, he said, “Reverend, if I were you, I’d get out of town as fast I could.” I said, “Officer, you are not me, you go back and tell your Klan brethren that if God could keep me through this, then I’m here for the duration.” I think that’s what gave people the feeling that I wouldn’t run, I didn’t run, and that God had to be there. I think that’s what helped build the Birmingham movement.

For more information on this interview, or any other that appeared in Eyes on the Prize, please contact the Film and Media Archive.

Home Movie Day, October 15, 2011

7 Oct

Come join us for Home Movie Day!

October 15, 2011

Noon – 3 p.m.

West Campus Conference Center

7425 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, MO

Washington University Film & Media Archive hosts the annual Home Movie Day, an international event that invites the public to share their Regular 8mm, Super 8mm, 16mm, VHS and DVD home movies. In addition to screening home movies, the event provides an opportunity to learn how to care for home movies.

Contact the Film & Media Archive ( or 314-935-8679) for information about including your home movies in the program.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

4 Oct

Valerie Sills, interviewee and former resident of Pruitt-Igoe. Photo by Evie Hemphill.

Washington University’s Film and Media Archive and the George Warren Brown School of Social Work co-sponsored a screening of the award-winning documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, followed by a panel discussion, on September 15, 2011. Screenings of the film have been very popular and over 600 people attended the event.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, directed by Chad Freidrichs, takes a new look at the Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex. The Film and Media Archive and University Archives provided archival assistance to the filmmakers.

A synopsis of the film from the filmmaker’s website:

“It began as a housing marvel. Two decades later, it ended in rubble. But what happened to those caught in between?”The Pruitt-Igoe Myth explores the social, economic and legislative issues that led to the decline of conventional public housing in America, and the city centers in which they resided, while tracing the personal and poignant narratives of several of the residents of the notorious Pruitt-Igoe public housing complex in St. Louis.”

This film looks at the hopeful beginnings of Pruitt-Igoe, follows the history through to the implosion of the buildings, and then revisits the site today showing an overgrown area of urban wilderness. The interviewees, including several former residents of Pruitt-Igoe, recount their stories giving a vivid picture of what it was like to live in the housing complex. The film also expands beyond Pruitt-Igoe to show the transformation of urban American after World War II.

For more photos from this event, please see our Facebook page.

Before the screening of "The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, Washington University, Graham Chapel. Photo by Evie Hemphill.

Panel discussion after the screening of "The Pruitt-Igoe Myth." From left to right: Edward F. Lawlor, Dean of Social Work. Valerie Sills, interviewee and former resident of Pruitt-Igoe. Bob Hansman, Associate Professor, Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. Michael Willis, Founder and President, Michael Willis Architects. Jack Kirkland, Associate Professor, Brown School. Photo by Alison Carrick.