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Rosa Parks and the 60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

1 Dec
Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King, Jr.

Source: Ebony Magazine

December 1, 2015 marks the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This boycott, a pivotal event in the history of the Civil Rights movement, began when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on December 1, 1955. She was arrested, sparking a year long boycott and protest, and a Supreme Court case which ended segregation on public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama.

Ms. Parks had been active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) throughout the 1940’s and the incident in 1955 was not the first time she had objected to the segregated bus laws. It wasn’t until 1955 that she was arrested, and this incident brought Ms. Parks to national prominence as well as a local preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr. Both went on to play major roles in the Civil Rights movement.

Rosa Parks was interviewed by Blackside for “Eyes on the Prize” in 1985. In this interview she gives a very detailed history of her previous interactions with various Montgomery bus drivers, the oppressive atmosphere for African-Americans in the South at that time, and how the boycott unfolded after December 1, 1955.

The full interview can be read via the Film and Media Archive’s website. This interview was preserved as part of a grant from the Mellon Foundation and will be digitized as part of a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

From the interview:

And when he saw me still sitting, and that had left the three seats vacant, except where I was, he asked me if I was going to stand up and I said, no I’m not. And he said, well, if you, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have you, call the police and have you arrested. I said you may do that. And he did get off the bus and stayed for a few minutes and I still stayed where I was and when two policemen came on the bus, the driver pointed me out and he said that he needed the seats and other three stood, that one, he just said that one would not. And when the policeman approached me one of them spoke and asked me if the bus driver had asked me to stand and I said yes. He said, why don’t you stand up? I said, I don’t think I should have to stand up. And I asked him, why do you push us around? He said, I do not know, but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.

— Rosa Parks

Blackside interviewed other people who were involved with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, including E.D. Nixon, Jo Ann Robinson and Ralph Abernathy. More interviews can be found here: Eyes on the Prize Interviews, The Complete Series.

For more information about any of these interviews, please contact the Film and Media Archive.

 

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We Shall Overcome

8 May

“[This song] became the theme song of this movement. It’s a powerful song and you can go anywhere in the world today where there is trouble and you will find this song and still see people in the streets marching and singing it. It is our gift to the world.”

— Freedom Singers

Guy Carawan, one of the musicians who helped popularize the protest song We Shall Overcome died last week at age 87.

In 1989 Ginger Group Film Productions created a documentary, We Shall Overcome, about the song and its place in the civil rights movement. Filmmaker Henry Hampton acquired the original film interviews, stills, and sound and picture elements for We Shall Overcome from the Ginger Group and it is now part of the Henry Hampton Collection at the WU Film & Media Archive.We Shall Overcome traces the roots of the song from its beginnings in African-American spirituals and union songs to becoming the anthem of the civil rights movement both nationally and internationally. The holdings in the collection include original interviews with Bernice Johnson Reagon and the Freedom Singers, Guy Carawan, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Taj Mahal, Julian Bond, and many others.

The film traces the history of the song and how it came to be sung as a political anthem, and how the lyrics and music jumped national lines and were eventually sung in countless protests and movements across the globe from the American South to South Africa. The song first appeared as a work song sung by slaves, then it surfaced as a gospel tune first published by Charles Albert Tindley in 1901 as “I’ll Overcome Someday.” Later the song, sung in a faster tempo, was used as part of political protest in 1945 in Charleston, South Carolina as part of a strike by tobacco workers.

A few years later in 1947 the tobacco union activists attended a workshop at the Highlander Folk Center in Tennessee with local African-American activists and shared the song with them. Zilphia Horton, Highlander’s musical director started using it in workshops. In an audio documentary produced by NPR, Horton described the song as,

A spiritual, sung by many different nationality groups. And it’s so simple. The idea is so sincere that it doesn’t matter that it comes from tobacco workers. When I sing it for people it becomes their song. –Zilphia Horton

Horton eventually sang the song for musician Pete Seeger. The music and lyrics were then published in a music magazine and popularized. Guy Carawan was another musician who eventually learned the song at a workshop at Highlander. He and others began singing the song at protests and it became an unofficial anthem for the movement. The influence and power of the song reached an apex when President Johnson used the phrase as part of a speech when he called on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Johnson’s use of the phrase “we shall overcome,” was a direct and explicit show of support for the Voting Rights Act and for Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.

While the song was symbolic and appropriated by politics at times, its real power was felt at the numerous demonstrations where people stood and marched for long hours. The song has taken many forms and been arranged by countless musicians. Below are some different versions of it.

Judy Richardson and Scarred Justice

21 Apr
Judy Richardson

Judy Richardson

Filmmaker, producer, editor, and former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) member Judy Richardson will attend a free screening of her film Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968. With a Q&A Session following the film.

Free Screening ~April 23, 2015 ~7:30 PM

Etta Eiseman Steinberg Auditorium

6465 Forsyth Blvd., Danforth Campus

Judy Richardson was one of the first producers on the Eyes on the Prize team the series created by filmmaker Henry Hampton and was instrumental in the production of the groundbreaking series about the civil rights movement. She began working on what would become Eyes on the Prize in 1978 and was a series research consultant, and then a series associate producer for Eyes on the Prize II. After Hampton’s death, Ms. Richardson continued to work in film as a senior producer at Northern Light Productions, as well as lecture, create exhibits,  and hold teacher-training workshops on the civil rights movement.

In this video clip from Brown University, Judy Richardson talks about what her goals were when working on Eyes on the Prize. She says,

The main thing about Eyes is it showed you people who looked like you in the audience. They were the ones who were the leaders. They were the ones who were plowing these fields long before any national organization gets there. And they are amazingly brilliant and amazingly brave and all of that stuff, and they look like the folks in the audience…but what Eyes does is it shows all these regular folks who made the movement, and sustained it, and they were just like those people in the audience.

Other interview clips with Richardson can be found here.

Continuing the work she did with Blackside, Richardson creates works which highlight little-known, underplayed, or ignored episodes in the history of the movement. Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968 tells the story of a confrontation between law enforcement and students from South Carolina State College and from Claflin University when the students tried to integrate the only bowling alley in Orangeburg, SC. The bowling alley had a whites-only policy despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act four years earlier.

When the students conducted a protest at the bowling alley, they were met by local police who forcibly tried to remove them from the bowling alley. After an altercation, several students and one policeman needed medical attention. Tensions continued to run high as the governor deployed the National Guard and two nights later on Feb. 8 there was another clash between the students and the state troopers. The officers fired into the crowd repeatedly with shotguns loaded with high-caliber buck shot. According to medical records, 30 students were struck, nearly all of them in the back or side as they were fleeing. Some were shot in the feet or legs while prone on the ground. Three men, Delano Middleton, Samuel Hammond Jr., and Henry Smith, died as a result of their injuries. A later FBI investigation concluded that the only gunfire had come from the police and state troopers.

The All-Star Lanes bowling alley was forced to integrate following a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, but no one has ever been prosecuted for the deaths of Delano Middleton, Samuel Hammond Jr., and Henry Smith.

This film screening is part of  the Henry Hampton Minority Documentarian Series which aims to share documentary films made by minority filmmakers or that depict the stories of often underrepresented groups with a focus on the African-American experience. Co-sponsored by African and African-American Studies Department, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and Cinema St. Louis.

This event is part of the Law, Identity and Culture Initiative, in the School of Law, (Un)Civil Mediations: A Civil Rights and Visual Culture Symposium, co-sponsored with the Washington University Libraries System; African & African-American Studies and the American Culture Studies programs, the Department of Art History & Archaeology and the Center for the Humanities in the College of Arts & Sciences; the Missouri History Museum and the Post Race? Interrogations, Provocations & Disruptions Lecture Series with support funding from the Office of the Provost, Diversity & Inclusion Grants.

Screening of Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968 with producer Judy Richardson

10 Apr
Still from Scarred Justice

Still from Scarred Justice

Screening of Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968 with producer Judy Richardson

Free Screening
April 23, 2015
7:30 PM
Etta Eiseman Steinberg Auditorium
6465 Forsyth Blvd., Danforth Campus

Join us for a free screening of Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968.

Followed by a Q&A with producer Judy Richardson.

SCARRED JUSTICE tells the story of South Carolina’s 1968 Orangeburg Massacre, an incident often termed the Kent State of the South. In 1968, police opened fire near the campus of South Carolina State University, leaving three young African-American men dead and 27 people wounded. Unlike a similar incident at Kent State, the incident did not make national headlines, and there has never been an official investigation into what occurred that night. Scarred Justice investigates the continued cover-up of the tragedy and follows ongoing efforts to seek justice.

The Henry Hampton Minority Documentarian Series aims to share documentary films made by minority filmmakers or that depict the stories of often underrepresented groups with a focus on the African-American experience.

This event is part of the Law, Identity and Culture Initiative, in the School of Law, (Un)Civil Mediations: A Civil Rights and Visual Culture Symposium, co-sponsored with the Washington University Libraries System; African & African American Studies and the American Culture Studies programs, the Department of Art History & Archaeology and the Center for the Humanities in the College of Arts & Sciences; the Missouri History Museum and the Post Race? Interrogations, Provocations & Disruptions Lecture Series with support funding from the Office of the Provost, Diversity & Inclusion Grants.

Screening of “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” with producer Laurens Grant

6 Feb

Washington University Libraries’ Henry Hampton Minority Documentarian Series presents

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution

Followed by Q&A with producer Laurens Grant

Still from "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution"

Still from “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”

Free Screening ~February 26, 2015 ~7:00 PM

Etta Eiseman Steinberg Auditorium

6465 Forsyth Blvd., Danforth Campus

Master documentarian and director Stanley Nelson, founder of Firelight Media,  goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution screened at the Sundance Film Festival in Jan. 2015. This screening, co-sponsored by African and African-American Studies Department, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and Cinema St. Louis, is an opportunity to see the film before its theatrical run. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution includes primary source interviews with Black Panther members from Chicago, Oakland, Los Angeles, and New York, as well as police officers, former FBI agents, journalists, and scholars.

Laurens Grant is an award-winning filmmaker. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution represents Grant’s third appearance at Sundance. Previously, Grant directed the documentary Jesse Owens, and produced the documentary Freedom Riders (2009) which also premiered at Sundance.

The Film & Media Archive assisted Firelight Media with research requests and queries relating to stock footage for Freedom Ridersa documentary about the 1961 attempt by civil rights activists to enforce federal law and desegregate public transportation in the South. Significant sections of footage from A Regular Bouquet (part of the Film & Media Archive’s Richard Beymer Collection) was licensed by Beymer for a film Nelson produced, Freedom Summer (2014). In addition the Archive contains many primary source interviews from Eyes on the Prize and stock footage that relate to the events surrounding the subjects of Firelight Media’s documentaries.

The free screening is the second in the Henry Hampton Minority Documentarian Series, which debuted in November 2014 at the St. Louis International Film Festival (SLIFF) with “Through a Lens Darkly.” The series is named in honor of Henry Hampton (1940-98), a St. Louis native and 1961 graduate of Washington University, where his 35,000-plus-item collection is housed in the libraries’ Film and Media Archive. Hampton’s works chronicled the 20th century’s great political and social movements, focusing on the lives of the poor and disenfranchised. The best known of Hampton’s 60-plus major film and media projects was his epic 14-part PBS series “Eyes on the Prize.” More than 25 years after its release, it is still considered the definitive work on the civil-rights movement.

The Henry Hampton Minority Documentarian Series aims to share documentary films made by minority filmmakers or that depict the stories of often underrepresented groups with a focus on the African American experience.

 

 

 

Lost Martin Luther King Speeches Discovered

23 Jan
Trikosko, Marion S. - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

Trikosko, Marion S. – United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division

Three speeches by Martin Luther King have been re-discovered recently and made available to the public. King was a prolific speaker and traveled widely to speak to groups and convey his messages.

Prior to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, King gave a speech in London on December 7, 1964 which looked beyond the desegregation battles in Montgomery, Birmingham, and other places in South. In this  speech, King foreshadows many of the challenges he would confront in the last four years of life, the problem of poverty, and discrimination in housing and education.

In this speech he builds on the ideas written in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail,

 There are those individuals who argue that only time can solve the problem of racial injustice in the United States, in South Africa or anywhere else; you’ve got to wait on time. And I know they’ve said to us so often in the States and to our allies in the white community, “Just be nice and be patient and continue to pray, and in 100 or 200 years the problem will work itself out.” We have heard and we have lived with the myth of time. The only answer that I can give to that myth is that time is neutral. It can be used either constructively or destructively. And I must honestly say to you that I’m convinced that the forces of ill will have often used time much more effectively than the forces of goodwill. And we may have to repent in this generation, not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around saying, “Wait on time.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

The speech was recently discovered in Pacifica Radio Archives and can be heard in its entirety here.

Another speech, this one given by King at University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) on April 27, 1965 was discovered in a storage room by archivist Derek Bolin and Tim Groeling, chair of the UCLA Department of Communication Studies. King delivered this speech a month after his march from Selma to Montgomery.

A recent NPR story reported a third speech by King has been discovered on reel-to-reel tape at the New York State Museum and is titled  “Martin Luther King, Jr., Emancipation Proclamation Speech 1962.” This speech has not been heard since King delivered it as part of the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation. This entire speech can be heard here with a visual representation of King’s typescript draft showing his changes and edits.

These recent discoveries highlight the importance of archives and the role they play in uncovering and preserving important historical items.

Henry Hampton, Selma, and Eyes on the Prize

12 Dec
Henry Hampton and G. Robert Hohler marching in Selma, Alabama on the day of James Reeb's memorial service. Photo by Thomas Adams Rothschild.

Henry Hampton and G. Robert Hohler marching in Selma, Alabama on the day of James Reeb’s memorial service. Photo by Thomas Adams Rothschild.

A new film, Selma directed by Ava DuVernay and produced by Oprah Winfrey, has opened in theaters. Selma is a dramatized version of the tumultuous events in that town that became a turning point in the civil rights movement. Civil rights activists had been working to increase voter registration among African-Americans throughout the fall of 1964. These efforts led to clashes between law enforcement in Selma and civil rights activists, and during a protest on February 18 an unarmed man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, was killed by Alabama State Trooper, James Bonard Fowler. In response to Jackson’s death, and in an effort to raise awareness about voting restrictions, John Lewis and Hosea Williams attempted to march on March 7, 1965 but were met with brutal resistance from state troopers and deputized citizens on the Edmud Pettus Bridge.

That same night ABC broke into its scheduled film Judgment at Nuremberg to broadcast images of violence from Selma. A small Southern town became the focus of the entire nation and after the images of the brutalized marchers were broadcast Martin Luther King issued a call for civil rights activists to come to Selma to help continue the march. A young Henry Hampton, originally from St. Louis but working for the Unitarian Universalists in Boston, was among the people who arrived to support the marchers. He was a firsthand witness to the events in Selma during the march on Turnaround Tuesday and later spoke about what he experienced there,

“I was in Selma, and it was a story that at that point—literally it was the only time in my life that I’ve ever been prophetic—it was a moment when we were standing there on the bridge, the Pettus Bridge, in Selma. There were cameras buzzing overhead…the president and federal government in all its power was there. We had terrific villains. There was a man named Al Lingo, who was the head of the Alabama State Police, that most don’t remember. They remember George Wallace but together they were a formidable opposition who were literally killing people, and I looked around and said to myself, not being a native Southerner, I looked around and said, ‘This could make a terrific movie,’ and put the idea away for twelve or fifteen years. When someone asked me the question, if you had your absolute druthers and the money, what would you do? Ten seconds it came back, it would be the television history of the civil rights movement…something fundamental changed in the country on that bridge and rarely do you get that kind of visual moment that confirms this massive shift in the way that people are going to feel about each other. It doesn’t mean that everyone loved everyone but it meant, I think, that America was no longer going to step backwards. It was going to step forward and these are important moments.” –An interview with Henry Hampton. Conducted by Chris Lydon, 3/31/94

This moment was the genesis of Eyes on the Prize, and when Hampton told the story of Selma, Alabama in episode six, Bridge to Freedom (1965), he and his producers were able to interview many of the key players from that moment, including many participants in the Selma actions including Coretta Scott King, Ralph AbernathyDiane Nash, Amelia Boynton Robinson, James Bevel, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, C.T. Vivian, James Forman, Frederick Reese, John DoarRichard Valeriani. Hampton and his producers also interviewed the political figures and law enforcement officers who were responsible for decisions that led to the clash on the bridge, Joseph Smitherman, mayor of Selma, Gov. George Wallace, Jim Clark, Sheriff of Selma. Two women who had participated in the march as children were also interviewed, Rachel Nelson West and Sheyann Webb. Given the number and range of interviews that were conducted for Eyes on the Prize, these primary source documents together give the viewer a multifaceted portrait of one of the most important episodes in the civil rights movement.