Archive | November, 2012

Lawrence Guyot and “Eyes on the Prize”

30 Nov

guyot_lawerenceLawrence Guyot, civil rights activist and interviewee for Eyes on the Prize, died this week at age 73. Guyot was involved in several civil rights groups beginning in the 1960s in his native state of Mississippi. He began working in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1962, and was heavily involved in the activities of Freedom Summer in 1964, and was the founding chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), a group which included fellow activist, Fannie Lou Hamer. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s goal was to have African American delegates included in the Democratic Party. The challenge was rejected but the Fannie Lou Hamer spoke on national television and brought attention to the plight of African Americans in Mississippi.

Along the way, Guyot endured beatings, threats, and violence. Mississippi was notorious for the amount of violence against civil rights activists and Guyot was arrested while trying to bail Fannie Lou Hamer out of jail after she and a group had entered a “whites only” section of a bus station in Winona, Mississippi. When Guyot arrived to bail out Hamer, he was arrested and beaten severely for many hours. He was only released after Medgar Evers, a fellow activist from Mississippi, was murdered in the same time period.

Guyot was interviewed for Henry Hampton’s series, Eyes on the Prize in 1979. Guyot spoke about his work with Amzie Moore, Bob Moses, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the incident in the Winona jail, and how he became politically active through his father’s efforts to register people to vote. In this quote from his interview he described the strategy of Mississippian civil rights activists during the campaign to register African Americans,

We had recruited new people and had brought them into the fold. We were organizing in Greenwood. We were catching hell in every form. People being arrested. People were being threatened. People were bring kicked off farms. People were being beaten. People were being fired if they even associated with us. But despite all of that we were able to get people to go down and attempt to register to vote in the Delta where there’d been a whole history of violence and deprivation and peonage really. It wasn’t slavery but it certainly was peonage…we conducted the freedom election and one of the lessons we learned from the freedom election in 1963 was that the FBI was very, very concerned about providing protection and public cover to all of the volunteers who were white, who were northern and who were well, relatively well-educated. We learned pragmatically that the way to bring protection to our people was to bring whites in. We wanted to bring the national attention to what we were doing, to protect people who we could not protect—we never lied to anyone—we never said come register to vote with us you won’t get shot, you won’t get fired from your job, your social security won’t be cut off. It—despite the fact that social security is a federal payment, a federal fund, I saw a notice in the social security check sent out from Jackson, Mississippi, that a warning to everyone—if you register to vote, your check can be cut off. The pervasiveness of that state in preventing political activity even of that nature was so complete it is very hard to recapture for people who wasn’t [sic] involved in it.

This interview and many others are available at the Film & Media Archive and are part of the ongoing Mellon Project which will preserve the original film interviews from Eyes on the Prize I.


Ken Burns Appearance at Washington University – November 16, 2012

16 Nov

Ken Burns Appearance at Washington University November 16, 2012

John Vachon
A migrant womann and small child. Oskaloosa, Kansas. October 1938.
Credits: John Vachon; The Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will speak at Washington University at 5 p.m. on Friday, November 16, in the 560 Music Center, located at 560 Trinity Avenue in University City. Doors will open at 4 p.m. The Washington University Campus Store will make books available for purchase, and a book-signing will follow the talk. This event is free and open to the public.

Burns’ new film, The Dust Bowl, will air on PBS stations on November 17 and 18. Burns will receive the 2012 International Humanities Medal and an accompanying cash prize of $25,000, made possibly through the generosity of donors and Washington University alumni Phyllis Wilson Grossman and her husband David Grossman.

Burns rose to fame with the debut in 1990 of The Civil War, which aired on PBS stations and set new standards for documentary filmmaking. He followed up four years later with Baseball. In these and later miniseries, Burns revealed an American culture deeply conflicted about and uniquely shaped by race.

Location, Parking, Seating, Shuttle Service

The 560 Music Center is located at the corner of Trinity Avenue and Delmar Boulevard, at the west end of the Delmar Loop. The talk will be held in the 560 Music Center’s E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall, which seats 1100 people. There will be open seating, first-come, first-served, for this free event. The doors open at 4 p.m., and the program begins at 5.

This link leads to directions and a map: . There is nearby street parking as well as a Music Building parking lot behind the building and a larger parking lot a few blocks east on Delmar.

Courtesy shuttle service between the Danforth Campus and the 560 Music Building will run continuously from the base of the Brookings stairs to the 560 building from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Students, staff, and the general public may ride the shuttle. Campus parking is available in the Danforth University Center garage and in the metered parking lot east of the Kemper Art Museum.

Sponsored by The Center for the Humanities and co-sponsored by the Washington University Libraries.

Tuskegee Airmen and “Black Stars in Orbit”

9 Nov
Tuskegee Airman

War poster featuring a Tuskegee Airman

Lt. Col. Herbert Eugene Carter, one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, has died. Carter was one of an elite group of African American aviators who flew numerous successful missions during World War II. The armed forces were not only segregated at that time, but prior to World War II the Army did not accept African American pilots. This changed with the training program at the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University, in Alabama.

Documentary filmmaker, William Miles, created Black Stars in Orbit, to tell the story of African American aviators and astronauts. He interviewed Lee A. Archer who was part of the Tuskegee training program. Archer, who died in 2012, flew 169 combat missions in Europe during World War II, a huge number as most pilots flew an average of 50.
Edward J. Dwight, Jr. - Tuskegee Airman

Edward J. Dwight, Jr.

Miles also interviewed Edward J. Dwight, Jr.  for Black Stars in Orbit. Dwight did not train at Tuskegee but was part of an early astronaut training school in 1962. Identified by President Kennedy as a great candidate to become part of the Mercury Program Dwight began training at the Aerospace Test Pilots’ School at Edwards Air Force Base. He talked about his experience in the interview and how eventually after Kennedy’s assassination he was passed over for the next phase of the program.
Edward J. Dwight, Jr. in "Black Stars in Orbit"

Edward J. Dwight, Jr. in “Black Stars in Orbit”

After the tumultuous 1960s and the harassment Dwight and his wife faced in the Air Force, Dwight became a private flight instructor and eventually a sculptor. His interview for Black Stars in Orbit shows him in hist studio working on a piece as he recounts his story.

The Great Depression Interviews

2 Nov

Still from “Interview with Ossie Davis” – The Great Depression

The Film & Media Archive reached a milestone this week in The Great Depression transcript project. All of the original interviews from The Great Depression series are now digitized. There are 148 interviews from the series and the interviewees range from well-known people such as Ossie Davis, Gore Vidal, and Adam Clayton Powell III to previously unknown but important figures—labor organizers, sharecroppers, farmers, political activists, writers, and photographers— who were witnesses to one of the most difficult and political volatile periods in American history. Highlights from the series and interviews include an in-depth look at Henry Ford and his factory, the 1934 Upton Sinclair campaign for governor on the “End Poverty in California” platform, a behind-the-scenes look at New York politics in the 1930s, and many other stories of struggle and eventual success.

Still from “Interview with Paul Boatin” – The Great Depression

This is one phase of a collaborative project between the Film & Media Archive and Digital Library Services. The work of transcribing the interviews and preparing them for the web continues and the goal for the next phase is for all text from the transcripts to be transcribed, edited, and encoded into xml documents that meet TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) standards. The end goal is to present an online resource where users can browse the names, or search by keyword across all the interviews. The model for this site is the Eyes on the Prize: The Complete Interviews online resource.

Norma Rydlewski from “Interview with Norma Rydlewski and Katherine McIntosh” – The Great Depression

Eventually we hope to make the audio and video available online  allowing researchers the choice to read, listen, or watch the complete interviews. These interviews are a very valuable resource for researchers, and the topic of the series remains relevant today.

Shown here are stills from the interviews. The great actor, Ossie Davis, was interviewed about his experiences as an African-American in the South during the 1930s, and then in New York. Paul Boatin described his experience as a worker at the Ford Motor Factory during the 1920s. Norma Rydlewski was interviewed with her sister, Katherine McIntosh about their mother, Florence Owens Thompson, who was the subject of Dorothea Lange’s iconic image, “Migrant Mother.”