Centre’s civil rights film and discussion series continues with “Slavery by Another Name”

Posted by Centre News in Campus, News 30 Oct 2014

Slavery by Another Name PSIn keeping with campus and community efforts to address current issues of race and justice within the United States, Centre College continues the ongoing discussion with the next Created Equal film screening.

Sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle encourages communities to closely examine the history of civil rights in America as well as race relations in our country today. At the center of this endeavor are four distinguished documentary films, spanning American history from the 1830s to the 1960s, and each tells the stories of those who challenged deeply rooted institutions, such as slavery and segregation.

The second film in this series, Slavery by Another Name, will be shown in Vahlkamp Theater on Centre’s campus Sunday, Nov. 2 from 3-4:30 p.m., and Tuesday, Nov. 4 from 7:30-9 p.m. Public discussions of the video are also scheduled on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m., in the Ewen Room of the Campus Center. All events are free and open to the public.

Based on the Pulitzer-Prize-winning book by Douglas Blackmon, Slavery By Another Name reveals the shocking history of forced, unpaid convict labor in the United States, which primarily affected Southern black men and lasted until World War II. The documentary tells the stories of men, charged with crimes like vagrancy and often guilty of nothing, who were bought and sold as unpaid laborers and who suffered abuse, neglect and often deadly working conditions. Interviews with the descendants of victims and perpetrators are sure to resonate with a modern audience.

“It’s an important and little-told portion of race relations in America,” says Pierce and Amelia Harrington Lively Professor of Politics and Law Dan Stroup, one of the administrators of the NEH grant. “We know about emancipation and all the celebration that comes with that moment in history, but then, without much explanation in history texts, we end up with this system of segregation in America. There’s very little discussion of race relations between the moment of emancipation and the fight against segregation in America.”

Assistant Vice President for Diversity Education J.H. Atkins is also administering the NEH grant and believes this film will fill in some of these gaps in the history of race in the U.S.

“I always tell my students that history can’t just be about white males or black males or any other single group. It is important to learn all of these different stories and perspectives to understand the history of the United States as one country,” says Atkins.

According to Atkins, this insight not only broadens our perspective but also rings true today.

“This is a story that most people don’t know much about, but it is an important topic even today,” he says. “If you look at current incarceration rates in America , which are the highest in the world, you’ll see that African-Americans and Latinos still make up the majority of those who are imprisoned.”

The Created Equal video series is part of the Bridging Cultures initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, produced in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to encourage public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in the United States.  A full schedule of related campus and community events is available here.

by John Ross Wyatt ’15