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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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Birthright (1938)


An idealistic young man attempts to establish a school in a rural location, but encounters opposition from both the black and white communities. Micheaux himself was a former homesteader, and strongly believed that African Americans should establish rural communities rather than follow the urban migration. But it's hard to resist the allure of the city when Micheaux allows energetic singers and dancers to take the nightclub stage for extended musical numbers. Birthright is a remake of Micheaux's 1924 film of the same title. The earlier version is entirely lost. 

For Us The Living: The Medgar Evans Story (1983)

"For Us, The Living: The Medgar Evers Story" (1983) is a biographical drama based on the last ten years of Medgar Evers' life. The movie is an adaptation of the 1967 book, "For Us, the Living," by Myrlie Evers-Williams and William Peters, which Ossie Davis and Ken Rotcop assisted in writing the film's script. Micheal Schultz was responsible for the direction of the movie in Atlanta. PBS aired the film as part of their American Playhouse series.

Medgar Evers was a Civil Rights Activist that eventually became the first field director of the NAACP in Jackson, Mississippi. While in his position, he helped organize boycotts of white-owned department stores due to their racial policies, set up petitions to integrate Jackson public school systems, and encouraged the growth of the NAACP in Jackson. Unfortunately, because of his activism, Evers and his family lived in constant fear and harassment by a white supremacist group, eventually leading to Evers' assassination at the doorsteps of his home.

The movie features a distinguished cast, with Howard Rollins leading the way as Medgar Evers and Irene Cara as Evers' wife, Myrlie. Mrs. Evers selected Rollins to play the part of her husband when she saw him in the 1981 film, "Ragtime," where the Academy nominated him for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. In The Courier-Journal, on March 1983, Rollins said, "the proposal of the show had been around for ten years. It took three and a half weeks to complete the film. People worked for less than usual, and the film was treated with tremendous care and love. I felt a tremendous responsibility. It was the first time his life was being illuminated, and I am that vessel of that illumination." Unfortunately, several major networks rejected the film's script before the National Endowment of Humanities became the primary backer.

Like many movies about Civil Rights Activists, it's impossible to tell their story in 90 minutes. As a result, the events in the film will need more specific details, and the development of the characters could be better. Nevertheless, this movie can be a challenge to watch as some of the events address the harassment and ill-treatment of black people. There is plenty of information you can research about Medgar Evers', especially the murder trial of Byron De La Beckwith, which he didn't get convicted until 1994, thirty years after the assassination of Evers.

Director: Micheal Schultz
Writers: Ossie Davis, Myrlie Evers (book), William Peters (book), Ken Rotcop

Starring Howard E. Rollins Jr., Irene Cara, Margaret Avery, Roscoe Lee Browne, Laurence Fishburne, Janet MacLachlan, Thalmus Rasulala, Dick Anthony Williams, Paul Winfield

"For Us, The Living: The Medgar Evers Story" traces the life of the former insurance salesman turned field secretary for the NAACP, who was instrumental in organizing boycotts against discriminating southern white merchants and the desegregation of the University of Mississippi. Howard E. Rollins, Jr.'s riveting performance as Evers makes all the more poignant his struggles and triumphs and the battle for equality that would shockingly end with his assassination at the hand of white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith. 

Available on Blu-ray and streaming services.