Friday 26 January 2024

Resources for Week Five

 Responses to the Nightmare of the Jim Crow Era                                                              

                                     Motion Pictures

All three films vividly portray contentious issues of the Jim Crow era: The Great Debaters is set in a small all Black college in a small community in 1930s Texas in which several students develop formidable debating skills; Marshall is about a racial assault case in which the young Thurgood Marshall defends a Black defendant in 1940s Baltimore, and The Long Walk Home is set in 1956 Montgomery Alabama during the year-long bus boycott led by Martin Luther King in which a white woman and her Black maid decide how they will respond to the boycott. Based on a true story.


This documentary explores racism in schools, housing and jobs in Canada during the first half of the 20th century: revealing and poignant.

A powerful documentary about a group of courageous young supporters of civil rights who risked their lives to ride throughout the South on interstate buses in 1961 to challenge unconstitional laws that banned interracial people from sitting together.

Another insightful series written and hosted by Henry Louis Gates
This earlier series by Gates spans the history of African Americans from their time in Africa to the Civil Rights movement. Everything that Gates does is enriching.


This powerful film is based on the book Unexampled Courage; I highly recommend both the book and the film.  

This powerful book examines the difficult long-term relationship between Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan, her tormentor who is behind her in the iconic 1957 photograph. The book also reveals the difficult life that Eckford experienced as a result of her decision to be one of the Little Rock Nine to desegegrate the local high school.

A wonderful, inspiring memoir about a young girl who was born into a poor sharecropper's family and yet eventually became a University President. 

Wednesday 24 January 2024

 Suggested material for Week Four on the power of the Lost Cause

Three motion pictures set out below and the PBS series Reconstruction is a good start for this week.


A PBS film that explores the controversy over Griffith's film Birth of a Nation

Canadian Paul Salzman returns to Mississippi aftter forty five years to encounter the individual who beat him up back in 1965. This excellent film would also be valuable for the subsequent 
week on the nightmare of Jim Crow

The first major television series to challenge the Lost Cause

Three articles worth reading are "Mildred Rutherford's War" in The  New York Review of Books, Dec. 7, 2023 and "Here's the Civil War  They Don't Want You Know," in The Washington Post, Dec.20, 2023
and "Kennedy and the Lost Cause," in The Atlantic, Dec. 2023.

Clint Smith, poet, scholar and writer for The Atlantic has written a series of essays about sites throughout America that examines how they are currently dealing with the racial cultural changes of recent years. In one of them, a Confederate cemetary he listens to Sons of Confederates who insist that messages that they learned over the years about the nobility and rightness of the Lost Cause are important to preserve. Smith rightly remains sceptical. This is a fascinating book.

Wednesday 17 January 2024

 Suggested Books and Films for Week Three 

The best overall four-part documentary for understanding Reconstruction, hosted by Henry Lewis Gates. 

The motion picture dispels the notions that the Confederates were united and it is perhaps the film that dramatizes the attempt at Reconstructing the South and the vicious backlash to it. Based on a true story.

This documentary makes clear that Southern states made every attempt to punish Blacks that included the peonage system which those convicted of the most minor crimes were sent to mines and plantations to work in which some lost their lives. This oppressive system lasted until the 1940s.

An excellent overview of Reconstruction by one of the great historians on the subject. This book is enriched by supplementary visual essays.

Thursday 11 January 2024

               Films and Books that may be helpful to Week Two

This eight-part CBC series that can be seen on Gem or Googled is a good overview of topics about Canadian Blacks that may not be familar to most viewers. Part One explores the history of slavery in French and English Canada 

An excellent four-part documentary on Lincoln that gives a large billing to Frederick Douglass but at this point the series can only be seen on Apple TV

Possibly the most realistic and powerful motion picture on slavery, sometimes painful to watch but full of striking insights. The film is available on DVD in the public library system.

Based on a true story about a revolt on a slave trip, Amistad is also
at times a difficult film to watch at times but the scenes on the ship are visceral, more compelling than the trial that follows. The film features two memorable performances. You will know who they are if you see this 1997 film available on DVD.

This 1990 film is the first motion picture to celebrate the Black military participation during the Civil War.

   The Underground Railway (2021) now only available on Amazon
is based on the terrific 2016 novel of the same name by Colson  Whitehead. Director Barry Jenkins masterful ten-part adaptation
   is well worth watching for how he replicates and alters the novel. 

Harriet  is a powerful film that celebrates the accomplishments of the most important conductor of the underground railroad.

Two PBS documentaries available in the public library system well worth watching are Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom and Becoming Frederick Douglass.

Henry Louis Gates' The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song on PBS is a four-part series that explore the history and culture of the American Black Church. The series is available through the public library system. 

A good four-part overview of the history of slavery that is available in the public library system and some of it can be seen online. 

Set during the 17th century, A Mercy explores why an enslaved woman might ask a stranger to take possession of her daughter and the generational repercusions of that decision.  A powerful and insightful novel about the early period of slavery.


Two wonderful novels by Geraldine Brooks, the first imagines the life of the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's, Little Women, whose idealism is shattered during the Civil War, and the second toggles between 1850s Kentucky in which an enslaved young groom trains the greatest race horse of the 19th century and 2019 Washington D.C. in which a young Black academic finds a discarded painting of a Black groom and a horse. Brooks reveals the continuities between the forms of racism displayed during slavery and how they are expressed in the present. 


Regarded by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of 2023, Master Slave Husband Wife chronicles the extraordinary 
    escape of an enslaved husband and wife from Georgia to Nova         Scotia to Britain as the light-skinned wife poses as the master over     her darker skinned husband. This is a scholarly book that could          become a film adaptation.  

During the Civil War, Confederate agents used Montreal as a base to concoct plots, including an operation of biological warfare, against the Union government and Northerners. Canada after the Civil War became a haven for fugitive Confederates, including Jefferson Davis, who were welcomed by the most of the media and financial elites. These are only two of the compelling stories narrated by Julian Sher  about the role of Canada during the War and how Canadians supported both sides in his highly readable account.

Tuesday 2 January 2024

 Books and Films that may be helpful to Week One


An excellent historical overview of racism
 in America

An overview of how indigneous peoples have been protrayed historically in films
An excellent portrait of a little-known civil rights
leader who organized the 1963 March on Washingto