Anniston Museum premieres documentary on local civil rights era
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
Dec 02, 2012 | 11666 views |  0 comments | 329 329 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An Anniston auxiliary officer leads a group of demonstrators past the Anniston Police Department following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Photo: Courtesy of Jim Batchelor, reprinted from the new book “Calhoun County Memories: A Pictorial History” by The Anniston Star
An Anniston auxiliary officer leads a group of demonstrators past the Anniston Police Department following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Photo: Courtesy of Jim Batchelor, reprinted from the new book “Calhoun County Memories: A Pictorial History” by The Anniston Star
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It’s one thing to read about stories of Anniston’s turbulent — sometimes heroic — civil rights era. It’s another thing altogether to hear people who witnessed those events tell the stories themselves.

That’s why the Anniston Museum of Natural History, in partnership with the city of Anniston, has made a documentary featuring interviews with 17 men and women who where there for some of Anniston’s worst and best moments.

The film, “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, Anniston’s Place in Civil Rights History,” will premiere at 6 p.m. Thursday at Anniston Performing Arts Center at Anniston High School. The showing is open to all ages, and admission is free.

The idea of recording those personal stories for posterity came to light during discussions between city officials and the museum about the creation of a foundation for a future civil rights museum, said Anniston Museum director Cheryl Bragg.

“We all agreed that oral histories of some people who were involved in Anniston during the civil right era were very important,” Bragg said. “I think we all know the history and we’ve read the stories, but it was wonderful to hear the people tell it from their perspective.”

The film includes interviews with students and teachers, religious leaders and members of the media. They spoke of the hurt of living in a town separated by race, when Jim Crow laws separated football teams, schools and lunch counters. They spoke of the fear and violence that surfaced as the city fought to overcome those injustices.

Through personal memories, interspersed with photographs and newspaper clippings from that era, the film tells the harrowing story of the killing of a black man, Willie Brewster, in the summer of 1965, which ended in an historic conviction by an all-white jury of a white man for the killing.

The film tells the story of the burning of the Freedom Riders bus in Anniston, and the formation of a biracial human-relations council that worked to stem the tide of such violent acts — and that became a national model emulated by cities across the country.

All of those stories are important to record, said the film’s narrator, because, “so many are no longer here to share their stories, and while their voices may be silenced, they are very much alive in the memories of others for what they accomplished.”

Those interviewed for the film include: H. Brandt Ayers, Dr. Art Bacon, Dr. Barbara Boyd, Jackie Brown, Vic Calhoun, Georgia U. Calhoun, Charlie Doster, James Glover Jr., Cecil Grady, Jimmie Grady, General Jackson, Dr. Clarence Jairrels, Tom Potts Jr., Glen Ray, the Rev. Nimrod Q. Reynolds, the Rev. Henry Sterling and Anna Washington.

‘Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory’

• Public showing at 6 p.m. Thursday at Anniston Performing Arts Center and Anniston High School. Admission is free.

• For more information, or to purchase a copy of the DVD, call 256-237-6766 or email info@annistonmuseum.org.

New book reflects on Anniston’s past

Anniston Star publisher H. Brandt Ayers, who appears in the documentary “Mine Eyes Have Seen: Anniston’s Place in Civil Rights History,” has written a memoir that addresses the same time period.

In the book “In Love With Defeat: The Making of a Southern Liberal,” Ayers chronicles his journey from the segregated Old South to covering the central scenes of the civil rights struggle and finally to editorship of his family’s hometown newspaper.

High points involve the birth of a New South movement, the election of a Southern president and the strange undoing of that presidency.

An afterword bridges the years from the disappearance of the New South in the 1980s to Barack Obama’s first term.

“In Love With Defeat” (New South Books, $29.95) will be released on Jan. 1. It is available for pre-order at Amazon or through newsouthbooks.com.
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Anniston Museum premieres documentary on local civil rights era by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com

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