Archive | January, 2013

Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement

25 Jan

Shiloh Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Photo by Danny Lyon.

Shiloh Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Photo by Danny Lyon.

Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement: An Exhibit at the Film & Media Archive

January – May, 2013

The Film & Media Archive presents an exhibition on photography and the civil rights movement. Featuring images and books from photographers who helped document the dramatic moments in the movement including Danny LyonJames KaralesCharles Moore, Leonard Freed, and Bruce Davidson.

The media coverage both in photographs and television news footage of the resistance and brutality against activists had an undeniable impact on the general public and helped turn the tide in favor of the civil rights movement. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his book Why We Can’t Wait, “The brutality with which officials would have quelled the black individual became impotent when it could not be pursued with stealth and remain unobserved. It was caught—as a fugitive from a penitentiary is often caught—in gigantic circling spotlights. It was imprisoned in a luminous glare revealing the naked truth to the whole world.”

Henry Hampton’s documentary series Eyes on the Prize began with the story of Emmett Till’s murder. Up until Till’s murder, every year there were disappearances and unprosecuted murders and lynchings of African-Americans. The shock of the Till case was amplified by his mother’s decision to allow a photograph of his battered and mutilated body be published in Jet magazine. Of course, violent acts had occurred for many years before the 1950s, what was different was the revealing of these images in the mainstream media.

Protesters attacked with fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Photo by Charles Moore.

Protesters attacked with fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Photo by Charles Moore.

During the Birmingham campaign the violent response to citizens’ right to protest was documented by photographer Charles Moore, Bruce Davidson, and many other major news networks. The startling images of ordinary citizens, men, women, and children being attacked with dogs and water cannons made the front page in many newspapers around the world. Charles Moore later said, “Pictures can and do make a difference. Strong images of historical events do have an impact on society.”

Untitled, Time of Change (Damn the Defiant), 1963. Photography: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos.

Untitled, Time of Change (Damn the Defiant), 1963. Photography: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos.

Another moment which was captured on film and photograph was the Selma to Montgomery March. The iconic image of the march captured by James Karales was used in the promotional and cover art of Eyes on the Prize.

The exhibit will run from January – May, 2013, and can be viewed at the at the Film & Media Archive, Monday – Friday – 8:30-5:00 p.m.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Vietnam

18 Jan

Excerpts of a Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967.

For Martin Luther King Day, January 21, 2013, we look back to one of his most powerful speeches. Martin Luther King, Jr. first spoke out against the Vietnam War on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his death. In the last years of his life, King began to challenge other injustices beyond segregation. He took on poverty with his Poor People’s Campaign, he was against the War in Vietnam, and in his anti-war speeches he explicitly drew connections between racism, poverty, and militarism.

These speeches were not popular at the time. Many in King’s inner circle advised him not to speak out against the war. It was not a popular opinion and they felt it would damage his relationship with President Johnson who had supported civil rights legislation and the movement. As predicted the reaction to his initial speech on April 4 was almost entirely negative in the media and it did alienate him from President Johnson, who never invited him to the White House again. An article published in Life magazine called the speech, “”demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi,” (Robbins, Mary Susannah (2007). Against the Vietnam War: Writings by Activists).

Despite these reactions, King felt that he should continue to extend his philosophy of nonviolence beyond the aims and goals of the civil rights movement into world politics. The speech above was given a few weeks after King’s first public statement against the war on April 30 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. In his interview for Eyes on the Prize II Stokely Carmichael talks about how Dr. King invited him to hear him speak  on this day and his reaction to the speech,

It was clear that his philosophy made it impossible for him not to take a stand against the war in Vietnam..The speech against the war in Vietnam is a very beautiful speech. I say one of the reasons why I have a great deal of love and respect for King was his love for the people and consequently his honesty. King was so honest that he could criticize himself publicly. And sometimes if one would listen to him the words he used were very sharp. In the speech on Vietnam, he has a quote, if I remember it correctly, it says, “There is a point where caution can become cowardice.” And here he was speaking about himself because when asked to make a statement on the war in Vietnam, he kept using caution as excuse.

Interview with Stokley Carmichael, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on November 7, 1988, for Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985.

Although he gained the support of Stokely Carmichael and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on the issue of Vietnam, he and the organization he founded, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), lost supporters. In a letter in response to criticism of the speech, King wrote,

I am sorry that my recent speeches on Vietnam has cost us your support. However, I feel that war is no longer, if it ever was, a valid way to solve international problems. Even the negative good served by a war against an evil force such as Hitler can no longer be considered worth the costly risk to mankind, for the ultimate weapons of today mean only the destruction of mankind. Man can no longer afford war. We must find a non-violent way to settle the problems of the world…I do not intend to link the Civil Rights Movement organically to the Peace Movement. The Vietnam Summer Program and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference are in no way linked organizationally, I feel, however, that it is not possible For men of good will to segregate their principles For matters of expediency, tactics or any other reason. The presence of two evils requires us to speak out against the two evils.

OAH Magazine of History, Vol. 19, Issue 1

Dr. King continued to speak out against the Vietnam War, racism, and poverty until his assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. For more information on the interviews with Martin Luther King’s colleagues and Coretta Scott King, please contact the Film & Media Archive.

Henry Hampton and Eyes on the Prize

11 Jan
Henry Hampton and Marian Wright Edelman during the filming of her interview for "Eyes on the Prize II"

Henry Hampton and Marian Wright Edelman during the filming of her interview for “Eyes on the Prize II”

Please join us for a talk,

Henry Hampton and Eyes on the Prize

by Nadia Ghasedi, Film & Media Archivist,

Sunday January 13, 2:00 – 4:00 pm

at The Heights center in Richmond Heights

Nadia Ghasedi, Film & Media Archivist, will present a talk, Henry Hampton and Eyes on the Prize, as part of the centennial celebration of the city of  Richmond Heights.  Henry Hampton (1940-98) was a St. Louis native and 1961 graduate of Washington University. In 1968, he established his Boston-based company Blackside, Inc., which quickly became the largest African-American-owned film production company of its time. Hampton’s works chronicle the 20th century’s great political and social movements, focusing on the lives of the poor and disenfranchised.

Best known of Hampton’s 60-plus major film and media projects is the 14-part series Eyes on the Prize which ran in primetime on PBS stations in the 1980s and 1990s. Twenty years after its release it is still considered the definitive work on the Civil Rights Movement. The series garnered international acclaim winning more than 20 major awards and attracting over 20 million viewers. The Boston Globe praised the series as “one of the most distinguished documentary series in the history of broadcasting.” Those sentiments were echoed again when Eyes on the Prize was re-broadcast in the fall of 2006, attracting a new generation of viewers.

All the materials used and created during the making of Eyes on the Prize as well as Blackside’s other works now reside at the Washington University Film & Media. Learn more about Hampton’s legacy and the current preservation of his collection.

In addition an exhibition highlighting Henry Hampton and Eyes on the Prize will be on display at The Heights (8001 Dale Ave., Richmond Heights, MO 63117) for the next month.

Nadia Ghasedi, Film & Media Archivist, has worked at Washington University Libraries Film & Media Archive for over five years. Prior to her current position, she served as the Archive’s Cataloging & Preservation Archivist. In addition to overseeing the Archive, Ms. Ghasedi is currently the Principal Investigator for the Eyes on the Prize Preservation Project, a four-year project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to complete the film preservation of Part 1 of the award-winning documentary series and all associated interview outtakes. She is a member of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, Midwest Archives Conference, Missouri Library Association, and the Association of St. Louis Area Archivists. Ms. Ghasedi holds a MA in Information Science & Learning Technologies with an Emphasis in Library Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia; a Certificate in Film Preservation from the L. Jeffrey School of Film Preservation at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York; and a BA in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

John Lewis and “Life Lessons”

4 Jan
John Lewis in "Eyes on the Prize"
John Lewis in “Eyes on the Prize”

Representative John Lewis published a book last year, Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for ChangeThe book is a memoir which also offers advice to current activists including members of the Occupy Movement. Lewis became involved with the civil rights movement as a teenager after hearing Martin Luther King, Jr. speak on the radio at the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He went on to be one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and participated in many marches and protests.

Lewis was interviewed for both Eyes on the Prize I and II. In these extensive interviews he speaks about his upbringing in rural Alabama, how he became involved in the civil rights movement, his participation in the Nashville sit-ins and the Freedom Rides, and his meetings with Malcolm X.

In this quote from his interview in Eyes on the Prize I, Lewis spoke of his desire to become a minister as a young boy,

 We had a lot of chickens. And I grew up with this idea, somehow, I don’t know where it came from, I wanted to be a minister, and somehow I transferred my desire to be a minister and my responsibility of raising the chickens…and I literally started preaching to the chickens. They became members of this sort of invisible church…Later I tested some ideas on my younger brothers or sisters and first cousins and I remember my first act of maybe a nonviolent protest was when my parents would kill the chicken, that I would refuse to eat the chicken. And it went for two or three days–refusing to speak to my mother, father–because they killed a chicken, that I thought was so wrong.

Interview with John Lewis from Eyes on the Prize I

As a young man, Lewis was involved with almost every major moment in the movement, including the first sit-ins in Nashville, the Selma to Montgomery March where he was attacked by state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, to speaking at the March on Washington, and participating in the Freedom Rides. Throughout it all and in the face of physical violence and intimidation, he maintained his philosophy of nonviolence. Speaking about his time as a student in Nashville, Lewis described how the first sit-ins occurred,

 So every Tuesday night for an entire semester in 1959 we had what we call, nonviolent workshop, direct action workshop, where we discussed and debated the theory, the philosophy of Gandhi, the teaching of Gandhi, the whole question of civil disobedience, the whole history of the struggle in India, and the attempt on the part of Gandhi to bring about some resolution of the problems in South Africa.

We went into the local stores, for the most part, the Five-and-Ten, Woolworth, Kreske’s, McClellan…we took our seats in a very orderly, peaceful fashion. The students were dressed like they were on the way to, to church or going to a big social affair. But they had their books, and we stayed there at the lunch counter studying and preparing our homework because we were denied service. The manager ordered that the lunch counters be closed, that the restaurants be closed, and we’d just sit there, and we continued to sit all day long. The first day nothing in term of violence or any disorder, nothing happened. This continued for a few more days and it continued day in and day out. And finally, on one Saturday when we had about 100 students prepare to go down, it was a very beautiful day in Nashville, very beautiful day, we got a call from a local white minister who had been a real supporter of the movement. He said that if we go down on this particular day he understand [sic] that the police would stand to the side and let a group of white hoodlums and thugs come in and beat people up, and then we would be arrested. And we should make a decision of whether we wanted to go or not and some people tried to discourage us from going on that particular Saturday. We made a decision to go, and we all went to the same store. It was Woolworth in downtown Nashville, in the heart of the downtown area, and occupied every seat at the lunch counter, every seat in the restaurant, and it did happen. A group of young white men came in and they start pulling and beating, primarily the young women, putting lighted cigarettes down their backs, in their hair and really beating people, and in a short time police officials came in and placed all of us under arrest, and not a single member of the white group–the people that were opposing our sit-in down at the lunch counter–were arrested. We all left out of that store singing “We Shall Overcome.” This was the first arrest in the Nashville sit-in. It was the first mass arrest, I think, anyplace in the South.

Interview with John Lewis from Eyes on the Prize I

Lewis’ interview from Eyes on the Prize II is also available online, along with the complete interviews from Eyes on the Prize I and II.