Save Our History: Voices of Civil Rights (The History Channel)
In the summer of 2004, on a mission cosponsored by the AARP, the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, and the Library of Congress, a group of 70 journalists bussed around the United States collecting people’s personal remembrances of Jim Crow segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. Save Our History: Voices of Civil Rights presents a cross section of those interviews, documented by director Jeffrey Tuchman and cinematographer Andy Bowley. The film, executive produced by Tuchman and Susan Werbe and produced by Christine Schillinger, is punctuated occasionally with familiar, iconic images and news footage from the era, but mostly it’s just everyday folks—men and women, white and black, most all of them graying—making the most of their opportunities to bear witness to what they saw, what they felt, what made them afraid, ashamed, angry, or proud. Talking heads have seldom been more eloquent or moving, whether it’s a black woman recalling her ordeal as the first student of color at a previously all-white high school or a white man describing how, as a child, he was spanked for kissing his beloved black nanny on the cheek. In one of the most riveting sequences, the recollections of the children of a murdered voter-registration activist are juxtaposed with those of a Ku Klux Klansman who led the firebomb attack on their home. Though more modest in scope, the documentary is a worthy companion to the great PBS series Eyes on the Prize. For preserving remarkable first-person accounts of a crucial period in American history and making them available to a wide audience, a Peabody is awarded to Save Our History: Voices of Civil Rights.