Medal of Freedom awarded to John Doar and Toni Morrison

1 Jun
John Doar in "Eyes on the Prize"

John Doar in “Eyes on the Prize”

The Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be given to civilians, was awarded to John Doar, former Assistant U.S. Attorney General, and Toni Morrison, acclaimed author of Beloved and many other works, by President Obama on May 29, 2012. The two were honored along with several other recipients including musician Bob Dylan and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The Film & Media Archive at Washington University holds original interviews from John Doar and Toni Morrison. Doar was interviewed for the Blackside series about the civil rights movement, Eyes on the Prize, and Morrison was interviewed for I’ll Make Me a World, a series about African Americans in the arts.

The entire interview with John Doar can be read online. In his interview he talked of the many cases and incidents he was involved with during the 1960s, including the desegregation of the University of Mississippi with the enrollment of James Meredith, and voter registration efforts in Mississippi. Doar worked to increase voter registration of African Americans in Mississippi with civil rights activists Medgar Evers and Bob Moses. In his interview for Eyes on the Prize, Doar described the hierarchical system which existed throughout the southern states during the 1960s:

…describing the system is not so much talking about the weapons or the obstacles. It’s the situation, and black citizens were second-class from cradle til grave. They went to segregated schools. They used segregated bathrooms. They sat in the back of segregated buses. They were buried—they had different color birth certificates–they were buried in different cemeteries. Everything was second-class. They couldn’t vote; they couldn’t have the same freedom that white people did, and it’s a terrible system, a caste system, and it was a monumental disgrace for the country. And the weapons that, that the southern white people used were to keep the blacks from voting. And once the Justice department and the Civil Rights organizations began an effort to force the white officials, state officials, to permit blacks to voting, then is when the intimidation occurred, or when it started to build up. And our objective was to try to keep the intimidation at a minimum, and to stop it if we could while we built up the registration and voting of blacks.

–John Doar from Interview with John Doar (Eyes on the Prize)

For more information on the Interview with John Doar, or any of the other interviews conducted for Eyes on the Prize, please visit the site created by Digital Library Services and the Film & Media Archive, Eyes on the Prize: The Complete Series.

Toni Morrison’s interview for I’ll Make Me a World is not available online at this time, but it is available to view in the Film & Media Archive. Please contact us for more information.

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