From challenging conflicts to charismatic leaders, pivotal episodes mark the annals of U.S. history. What was, what is, and what can be… history carves deeply into the stone of record. Never has a movement had the social and cultural impact equal to that of the civil rights efforts. Spurred on by the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case in 1954, civil rights activists used nonviolent protest and civil disobedience to change the way Americans considered race.
As a kid growing up in the deep south, I heard stories of the struggles. Neighbors, relatives and teachers recounted tales of the protests, stories of the uproars in schools over desegregation, and the unwavering solidarity of the movement’s leadership. Those involved in the civil rights movement were not interested in history, but only how things would play out in the future.
A great number of authors, artists and filmmakers have tackled the task of retelling the stories of those brave protesters. Between the term papers and college projects, I’ve spent hours researching in my own right. But few works have been as inclusive and detailed as the ground-breaking Civil Rights documentary series Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years.
Spanning nearly 30 years of civil rights efforts, Eyes on the Prize collected hours of additional, never before seen interview footage that was not included in the final production. These interviews offer new opportunities for scholarship and may provide insight into the current civil rights landscape. As the caretaker of the original assets, Washington University Film & Media Archive, realized this and sought to digitize these assets and make them more accessible.
We were honored and delighted to be asked to work with Washington University on this project. The walls of our office hallways are decorated with photos, newspaper clippings and paintings reflecting the individuals and groups that risked their livelihoods to make the world a better place. Bringing Eyes on the Prize into the digital age was the kind of assignment that gives meaning to our Media Management division.
We will take on the task of scanning the film elements and digitizing the original audio elements. The University will then reassemble the footage by syncing the video and audio files. For the first time ever, the complete interviews will be accessible, along with other resources, through the University’s digital channels.
And with that, we can say that we made history… ok, maybe we just helped keep history alive.