Documentary films are intensely collaborative efforts, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on several teams. These have focused on the South, Virginia, Civil Rights, and the Civil War. Each one has been different, but I have written, produced, or co-produced:
Anna, co-produced with Michael Burton, is a twenty-four-minute, animated historical film about one of the most dramatic events in the history of slavery in the early republic. In November 1815 Anna leapt from the third floor window of George Miller’s F Street tavern in Washington, D.C., after she was sold to Georgia traders and separated from her family. Miller’s tavern operated as a slave pen, and traders gathered coffles of enslaved people from across Maryland and brought them into the city. Abolitionist writers seized on her story, depicting her act as an attempted suicide. For two hundred years, her identity and her ultimate fate remained unknown. In 2015, her petition for freedom filed in the Circuit Court for D.C. came to light in the “O Say Can You See” collaborative research project. Her name was Ann Williams, and she recovered from the fall, mothered four more children, and won her court case to gain her freedom in 1832. This animated film and the accompanying website attempt to tell her complete story for the first time, dramatize the historical complexity of enslavement, and place her resistance to enslavement in its full context. This collaborative project between historians, artists, filmmakers, and creative writers recovers the full complexity of Anna’s actions on that day, grounds them in deeply researched historical analysis, and renders them in an aesthetically appealing, innovative, and widely accessible form. Scheduled for release in 2018.
“Rising Up: Virginia’s Civil Rights Movement” co-produced with Bill Reifenberger, University of Virginia, The Community Ideas Station, 2007, NETA, 2008. The film broadly covers the South, but concentrates on Virginia and follows major events with close, personal stories, including: Samuel W. Tucker’s 1939 library sit-in, Irene Morgan’s 1946 busing case before the Supreme Court, the school desegregation crisis in 1958-59, the 1960 sit-ins, the violence of Danville and Birmingham in 1963, and the resurgence of black voting and politics in 1965. Asking what made everyday people decide to take a stand in a time of transition and cultural conflict? This is the question at the heart and soul of Rising Up. In asking it and answering it, the film brings a fresh perspective to the civil rights struggle. Aired February 2008 on over 20 NETA affiliated stations.
“Massive Resistance” co-produced with George Gilliam, with the Community Ideas Stations, 1999. Massive Resistance earned an Emmy Nomination and has aired numerous times in the years since. The film chronicled the history of school desegregation in Virginia, and the massive resistance campaign to prevent school desegregation in the 1950s. Bringing alive the stories of this searing experience through interviews with black and white Virginians, Massive Resistance explored the student strike of 1951 in Prince Edward County, and the lawsuit that became one of the key cases in the Brown v. Board of Education case. Includes interview with Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Oliver Hill. Aired September 15, 2000.
|THE GROUND BENEATH OUR FEET||Documentary film series The Ground Beneath Our Feet was produced by Central Virginia Educational Television, with George H. Gilliam, including episodes on “Reconfiguring Virginia,” aired October 1, 1999, “New Deal Virginia,” aired February 26, 1999, “Massive Resistance,” aired September 15, 2000, and “Virginia Fights: World War II,” aired September 1, 2001.|