The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Monday, February 11, 2013

Eyes on the Prize - Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964) [Part 5 of 14] (1987)

  • Ella Baker
  • Unita Blackwell
  • Julian Bond
"Eyes on the Prize" is an exceptional series--mostly because instead of the typical hour or half hour documentary, it's VERY thorough and very detailed---covering not just an event but the civil rights movement from 1954 through 1965--and a LOT happened during that time. This isn't surprising, as PBS has made tons of interesting and well-crafted documentaries over the years.

This fifth episode is interesting in that it's specifically about Mississippi--and why this state totally sucked during the civil rights era. You know things are bad there when even Alabama looks down on you! Again and again, when it came to mistreating blacks, denying them their rights and murder, Mississippi was generally leading the rest of the South. A few examples of the atrocities of the time included the murder of Medgar Evers and other civil rights workers (and while not talked about in the show, it took decades to get a jury to convict them despite ample proof due to all-white juries that ignored the law), repeated burning of black churches and public officials bent on maintaining the status quo--no matter what it took. As Roy Wilkens (then president of the NAACP) said about the state, it's "...the most savage and uncivilized of the fifty's absolutely at the bottom of the list".

The bottom line is that all this evil really makes for a very exciting and compelling episode. You cannot help but watch it and get angry--and marvel at how horrible things were. And, because the show gets you to react so strongly, it's obviously very successful. Well worth seeing and profoundly sad.

Transcript for "Mississippi: Is This America?":