By Jesse Steele
Gordon College News Service
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
SALEM – In the 1960s, Judy Richardson left college to be a part of the freedom movement throughout the southern states. She became a staff member for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later used what she learned to produce a number of documentaries about the topic for Public Broadcasting Services (PBS).
Now Richardson, a distinguished visiting professor at Brown University, spends her fall semesters teaching a civil rights documentary course, and her spring moderating workshops and discussions throughout the region. As part of its Black History Month, Salem State University has invited Richardson to talk about how far the civil rights movement brought the country, but also the challenges that still remain in moving towards reconciliation.
“If we think only Martin Luther King Jr. made the difference, then we will not know that we can do it again,” Richardson said.
Richardson will be on campus February 28th as SSU also launches its spring film series titled, “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle.” The series begins with a screening of Stanley Nelson’s Freedom Riders, a documentary recalling the events of 1961 when over 400 students, black and white, traveled around the south to challenge segregation. While the Freedom Riders faced violence and, for some, jail time their nonviolent protests against racism sent a message of hope for a better future. Similar films about the civil rights movement will be shown monthly throughout the spring.
“Our platform is to have meaningful conversations about what (still) needs to be done,” said Bethany Jay, assistant professor of history at SSU.
Accompanying the movie screenings will be a discussion to analyze what viewers had seen and spark conversation. Each event will feature an individual who is familiar with the specific field, making Richardson an ideal candidate to discuss Freedom Riders.
Richardson hopes that these events will serve as a catalyst for change. “It is the people sitting in the audience of these films who will be the ones to make the difference,” said Richardson.
Other films in the series include The Abolitionist, The Loving Story, and Slavery By Another Name.
The Abolitionist, which will only have a partial screening, depicts Frederick Douglass joining other protestors of his time to begin a movement against slavery. The movie will follow with a discussion headed by Dr. John Stauffer, a professor of English and African American studies at Harvard University.
Another partial screening includes the documentary Slavery By Another Name, showing the ways in which aspects of slavery continued even after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Dr. Rebecca Hill, associate professor at Kennesaw State University, will moderate a discussion on the policies of contemporary prisons.
The series will also feature a double screening of The Loving Story, which is about an interracial couple who marry and challenge the social and political realms of their time. After the screening, Reneé Landers, J.D., will host a discussion on interracial relationships in today’s context. The second screening will host Dr. Patricia Gozemba and Karen Kahn, authors of Courting Equality, who will steer the discussion towards same-sex couples.
Though each of the moderators will be speaking on different topics, Jay says they all have the same goal in mind: to initiate conversations on issues still not fully understood.
The events are free and open to the public and will all be located at the Salem Five Community Room, 210 Essex St., except for the showing of Slavery By Another Name, which will be shown April 17th on Salem State’s campus at the Meier Hall Room.