Archive - Feb 23, 2008
From the 1860s to the 1920s, towns across the U.S. violently expelled African American residents.
Today, these communities remain virtually all white.
As black descendants return to demand justice, BANISHED exposes the hidden history of racial cleansing in America.
At least 12 different counties in eight states banished their black populations. More than 4,000 black residents were expelled from their homes.
The film takes the approach of visiting four of the counties where this occurred, discussing the historical events as well as examining the towns today. What it finds is that the counties remain almost completely white and that they are generally of two minds regarding blacks: either they still aren't welcome or they are (even though somehow that doesn't translate into any residents of color). I tend to think about this kind of thing as being long ago in the distant past. However, the film shows footage of a visit to Forsyth County Georgia in 1987 (75 years after blacks were driven out) by a group of whites and blacks who planned to march in honor of MLK and in memory of what had happened in that county. They were met by huge crowds of people from the KKK and other racist organizations who made it abundantly clear with signs, shouts, and even thrown rocks how unwelcome their visit was. This was only twenty years ago. It was also interesting to see the difficulty in coming to resolution about what happened...the conflict between the fact that these black folks basically had their land and property stolen when they were driven out long ago and the fact that the current owners were not the wrongdoers but rather just people who happened to buy land that at some point in the past was stolen. Like the documentary about the Little Rock high school, this film left me depressed about where we came from and how far we apparently still have to go.
I give it 5 out of 5.
I recently watched a documentary from HBO Films titled Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later. From the HBO web site:
The wave of desegregation that transformed the South during the 1960s began in Little Rock in September 1957. After Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus defied the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling and ordered the National Guard to prevent nine black teenagers from entering Central High School, President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by sending troops from the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army to protect the students as they entered the building.
But what is the legacy of the Civil Rights struggle for equal education today? To mark the 50th anniversary of the forced integration of Central High School, Little Rock natives Brent and Craig Renaud provide a candid look at the lives of contemporary Central High students in the documentary LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL: 50 YEARS LATER.
Brent and Craig Renaud followed the lives of contemporary Central High students, teachers and administration, as well as community leaders, over the course of a year for this intimate documentary, visiting classes, school meetings and assemblies, teenagers' homes and community events. Sharing the stories of both black and white students, the special reveals the opportunities and challenges facing them in and out of the classroom.
There are many interesting aspects to this film. One of the most striking was how the school that was forcefully desegregated 50 years ago is today voluntarily segregated on the common line of race and wealth. Another was hearing some of the black kids face the realization that their black peers don't care about school and neither do their parents, and they don't try very hard to succeed. Another was how many of the black kids resent the advantages that the wealthy white kids have (which, admittedly, they do have) without acknowledging how hard the white kids work to succeed in their advanced coursework. Another was a segment of a black kid admitting how prejudiced he is against whites. In the end, the film was pretty depressing...both in terms of the situation we were in 50 years ago and the ones we are still in today. We're certainly moving in the right direction...but it's obviously a long, slow process and we're nowhere near the end.
I give it 5 out of 5.