Between 250 to 300 people constituted the first public audience for “Mine Eyes Have Seen, Anniston’s Place in Civil Rights History” at the Anniston Performing Arts Center at Anniston High School.
They were looking forward to the documentary not for nostalgia’s sake but to be reminded how far they had come, some said prior to the screening.
“It tends to put you in a bad mood and make you remember,” said Ollie Forbes, 63. “But what’s the old adage, if you don’t know where you came from.”
The Anniston City Council approved and funded the documentary, a series of interviews with local people sharing their memories along with pictures and newspaper clippings of the events of that era. The Anniston Museum of Natural History and Vital Productions produced the feature. The documentary was finished only a couple of months ago, said Cheryl Bragg, executive director of the museum.
Before the movie started, a group of students from Talladega County Central High School’s technology team filed in and took their seats with their teachers. Wilshun Keith, 15, said he was there to learn about the civil rights movement so he could write a report about it. He knew a little about slavery and the movement, Keith said, but thought he’d learn more about local events through the documentary. After the movie, Keith was moved. He hadn’t realized all the things he takes for granted that his grandparents had fought to gain, he said.
“I should start appreciating and apologize,” Keith said. “Because instead of us walking around proud of being who we are, we toss the pigskin, the football, and we joke around in class instead of sitting there trying to get that education.”
James Glover, Jr., one of the people who shared his story in the movie, would have been pleased. When he first decided to be involved with the documentary, Glover said, he just wanted to get his insight in there. But after the documentary was finished and he shared it with his grandson, he knew it could do more.
“It opened his eyes,” Glover said. “He never realized there was so much to the civil rights movement.”
Glover hoped the documentary could help unite the city and inspire young people to change their world.
Others in the audience agreed.
However, Keith and his classmates were in the minority at the public premiere of the documentary. The majority of the people there were older. Many of them had lived through the local civil rights movement.
It is hard to watch, but the story needs to be told, said Claudia Smith, 72.
“Somewhere, somehow we must show this documentary to our young people,” Smith said. “They have no idea, what happened, why they are where they are now.”
Copies of the documentary will be available at the library or for purchase at the Museum Gift Shop, Bragg said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.