A nonprofit group with Anniston-area roots last year produced its first documentary film, on African-American history in Lowndes County. Its second production, on Hobson City, is in the works now.
Hiztorical Vision Productions is the brainchild of Theo Moore II, a 2007 Anniston High School graduate who now lives in Auburn and works at Tuskegee University’s Legacy Museum. After working as a history teacher for five years after earning degrees at Troy University, Moore says, he noticed that young people weren’t getting chances to learn enough about African-American history, particularly stories about black Americans’ successes.
“That’s the part of our history that no one gets the opportunity to learn about,” he said, pointing to an entrepreneurial spirit among freed slaves in the early years after the end of the Civil War. Many African Americans at the time seized the opportunities freedom afforded them, he said, establishing their own communities, institutions and businesses.
History as it’s usually taught normally focuses, necessarily, on the evils of slavery and segregation and the struggles to end them, he said.
There’s more to the story, Moore argues.
“I’m a history buff, and I love to tell stories,” he said. “Somehow that just transformed into me doing a small documentary.”
That documentary is “Crown the County of Lowndes,” a 17-minute film that mixes interviews of experts and locals with reenactments and archival photos. It tells of the establishment of Lowndes County’s Calhoun Colored School and of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, which helped give rise to the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. It also touches on the Southern Courier, a newspaper that helped chronicle the movement for Civil Rights in the 1960s.
The film is to be screened at a film festival in Atlanta in early June, and is available for viewing at Hiztorical Vision’s website, its Facebook page and its YouTube channel. The group hopes supporters will contribute to help finance its work, and is accepting donations at the website, Moore said.
Among Hiztorical Vision’s leaders are two other men with Anniston-area roots, Moore’s brother Antonio Stewart and Talarrius Likely. Likely, who lives and works near Atlanta, is in charge of marketing and communication, and is hoping to arrange a series of screenings for “Crown” around Alabama. He said audiences outside the state can learn a lot, too.
“When you tell people you’re from Alabama, you get this weird look,” Likely said, and people gravitate to two things they know about the state. “It’s never anything but football and racism. That’s my inspiration for joining the team. Black people in Alabama, they’ve done a lot and they’ve built a lot.”
Moore has a personal connection to his next project. He grew up in Anniston, he said, but his father’s family lived for decades in Hobson City. Moore spent much of April there filming interviews with people including State Rep. Barbara Boyd, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher and Mayor Alberta McCrory.
McCrory said she spoke on camera about her experiences growing up in Hobson City in an earlier era, when it was an educational and social center for African Americans. Hobson City was founded in 1899 by blacks barred from local politics in Oxford, making it the oldest incorporated all-black city in the state.
“Hobson City came about to begin with because black people wanted to participate in the political process and wanted to vote, wanted to elect people who looked like them to serve them,” she said.
The town’s Calhoun County Training School was the best, if not only, educational option for many black families across the region, she said, and it educated leaders who’ve made countless contributions to their communities and the nation.
McCrory has known that story for most of her life, but doesn’t recall reading about it in history books. She hopes the film can help change that, and bring awareness of Hobson City’s needs today. The government struggles financially, and McCrory noted a lack of businesses and a need for better-quality housing.
Moore is careful to say that he’s not sure when the Hobson City film will be finished, but he hopes it will be ready in time for the town’s annual reunion and founders celebration in mid-August.
“That would just be the perfect time, in my opinion,” he said.