MCLA to present civil rights film series


To encourage conversation about the changing meanings of freedom and equality, MCLA will present "Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle," a series of four documentary films that illustrate the history of civil rights in the United States.

"Certainly the issue of race and racism is something we continue to struggle with in America," said Ely Janis, assistant history professor at MCLA, and the programming coordinator for this initiative.

"I think the more conversations we have; the more ways we can approach that and the better it is for both the academic community and the broader community, as well," Janis continued. "Hopefully, by raising some of these issues, we can highlight these topics in a way that will benefit the community, as we talk about these national events and themes."

The documentary films, part of this year's "Creating Equal" program series at MCLA, will begin on Friday, Oct. 11, at 6 p.m. in Murdock Hall, room 218, with "The Abolitionists." The film showcases a small group of moral reformers who, in the 1830s, endeavored to free millions of African Americans held in bondage.

It will be followed by a discussion led by Cynthia Lyerly, associate professor of history at Boston College.

"We want to bring people together to talk about some of the themes and issues that are raised. We will look at 'The Abolitionists,' and how ordinary Americans, black, white, came together to right a societal wrong, and how they struggled to accomplish that," Janis said.

Then, on Nov. 7, MCLA will present "Slavery by Another Name." Based on the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas Blackmon, the film examines how, even as slavery ended in the South after the Civil War, new forms of forced labor kept thousands of African-Americans in bondage until the onset of World War II.

The film series also will feature "The Loving Story" and "Freedom Riders," both of which will be screened in spring 2014, at days and times to be announced. All four of these events are free and open to the public.

"We are very happy to host these films at MCLA," Janis said. "All of these films highlight the important struggles undertaken to achieve equality in the United States.  Each film will be followed by a discussion, and we hope people throughout the MCLA community and the Berkshires will attend and participate in these important conversations."

"Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle" is part of the "Bridging Cultures" initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which aims to use the power of documentary films to encourage community discussion of America's civil rights history. NEH partnered with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to develop programmatic and support materials.

"Freedom Riders" received an Emmy in 2012, and "The Loving Story" and "The Abolitionists" were nominated for Emmys in 2013. 

The "Created Equal" film set is made possible through a major grant from the NEH, as part of its "Bridging Cultures" initiative, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

In addition to the films, MCLA will celebrate and explore the legacy of the civil rights movement and its impact on American society through a series of year-long programming. More information about this can be found at creatingequality.

For more information, go to , and .