There are an increasing number of interracial marriages (h/t Ronald Jackson). Until fairly recently (the late 1960s in many states), such relationships were illegal. And, indeed, the fear of interracial marriage among white animated much of the passion around the anti-civil rights movement in the U.S. A new documentary offers terrific insight into the history of the fight surrounding interracial marriage.
The Loving Story, a documentary film, tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1950s, and their landmark Supreme Court Case, Loving v. Virginia, that changed history. This short clip (under 1 minute) tells a bit more:
The Pulitzer-Prize winning book by Douglas Blackmon Slavery By Another Name (Doubleday, 2008), has also become a documentary film (and Sundance Film Festival selection). In this epic research and media project, Blackmon and his collaborators bring to light a period of time when slavery had officially ended, yet a new form of was being reinstated. Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude. Government officials leased falsely imprisoned blacks to small-town entrepreneurs, provincial farmers, and dozens of corporations—including U.S. Steel Corp.—looking for cheap and abundant labor. Armies of “free” black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery. In the following (long for the web at just over 8 minutes) video clip, Blackmon describes how he came to write the book and why he thinks it’s important history for everyone in the U.S. to consider today:
In addition to the devastating historical account of the brutal oppression of African Americans by white overlords, there is a meta point to be made about the project as well. What Blackmon, along with filmmaker Sam Pollard and unnamed web production staff at PBS, have created here is a triumvirate of knowledge production in the digital age: a book, a documentary film, and an interactive website with additional materials. This, my scholarly friends, is the wave of the future in knowledge production. Doctoral students in the social science and humanities, take note: time to begin forging those collaborative working relationships with your friends in visual media, art and interactive design (and/or, cross-training on skills).
Interestingly, Blackmon has done this innovative scholarly project as a journalist and with the largess of his employer, the Wall Street Journal. One of my graduate school advisors used to say that “sociology is slow journalism,” but the reality is that really good journalism takes a long time – Blackmon says he thought this project would take him 2 years, but it ended up taking 7 years (the average length of time to complete a PhD dissertation). It would be great if more PhD-degree granting institutions began to recognize the potential for such cross-platform forms of knowledge production.
You can watch the entire film, “Slavery By Another Name,” along with the “Making Of…” on the PBS website, here.
A white college student at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah recently dressed in ‘black face’ and then interviewed some of his classmates about some basic questions, like “when does black history month happen?” (h/t Jenni Mueller).This short clip (4:14) reveals that white college students are in dire need of education:
It’s tempting to suggest that there is something uniquely ignorant about BYU students, but I think that the college students featured here are pretty typical of other college students attending historically white institutions.
Independent Lens (PBS) is celebrating Black History Month with a bunch of terrific documentaries, including a wonderful new documentary about Daisy Bates, a complicated, unconventional, and mostly forgotten heroine of the civil rights movement. It was Ms. Bates who led the charge to desegregate the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. The film is called “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock.” Here’s a short clip (1:08):
There’s also an interview with the filmmaker, Sharon La Cruise, available here. The film is airing this month on PBS stations across the U.S., so as they say, check your local listings and set the DVR!
To celebrate Black History Month, I’ll be sharing a few documentaries throughout the month that have a particular focus on African American culture told through non-fiction film.
I’ll begin with one of my favorite films in the last few years is Brick City (2009), which aired as a documentary series on the Sundance Channel. The filmmakers Mark Benjamin and Mark Levin do a remarkable job of capturing the daily drama of Newark, New Jersey, a community striving to become a better, safer, stronger place to live.
Against great odds, Newark’s citizens and its Mayor, Cory Booker, fight to raise the city out of a half century of violence, poverty and corruption. Booker, an outspoken and charismatic mayor who many compare to Barack Obama, works with Police Director Garry McCarthy, youth mentors, Blood and Crip gang members and other citizens on the front line to bring peace and prosperity to their once-proud city. Here’s a short clip:
This short (2:02) video is what Raven Brooks at Netroots Nation calls a “meme done right.” To me, it’s a quirky, fun exploration of what white privilege looks and sounds like, created by Franchecsa Ramsey (@chescaleigh), a NYC-based comedian and video blogger. Enjoy!
Recently, ABC ran a series called “Hidden America: Children of the Plains” that highlighted the poverty of Native American children living on reservations. The story, as told by ABC, is an unrelenting sad one. Some Native American youth took issue with the reporting, and created their own short video (2:35) response to it, called “More than that…”
British historian David Starkey (h/t Global Sociology blog) on recent events in the UK opines that “whites have become blacks” in this clip (10:20):
The racist stereotypes seem to just trip off his tongue. What’s worth noting here isn’t the stereotypes, these are centuries old, it’s that someone is invited to say such things on the BBC. Of course, we have Pat Buchanan, so we’re not doing much better here in the U.S.
if you think Starkey should apologize for his remarks, you can use visit this petition and add your name.
Make plans to see this fabulous documentary, which airs on PBS tonight (in most markets), called “Freedom Riders,” about the young people who protested racial segregation by riding buses into the segregated south from May to November 1961. Here’s a short (2:16 ) preview:
There is also a traveling exhibit that includes a detailed narrative of the Rides, illustrated with archival photos and newspaper clippings that document this pivotal event in the Civil Rights Movement. Look for it in your city.