Get on the Bus! A Look Back at the Historic Freedom Rides
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Eyes on the Prize (TV, 1987)

Eyes on the Prize (1987) remains the most comprehensive and in-depth documentary history of the U.S. civil rights movement ever produced. Produced by Henry Hampton and narrated by African American activist Julian Bond, the series' 14 hour-long episodes begin in the mid-1950s with the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi and with the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama; the series ends with the 1980 racial disturbance in Miami and the election of Harold Washington as the first black mayor of Chicago. Linking these events are ongoing civil rights actions that involve and challenge the country's religious, social, economic, educational, judicial, legislative, and political institutions. Some of the specific events chronicled are the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas; the Freedom Rides; the 1963 march on Washington, D.C.; the Mississippi voting rights campaigns; the Selma-to-Montgomery march; the Howard University sit-ins; the Poor People's Campaign; the emergence—and suppression—of the Black Panther Party; the Attica prison riot; and elections of black mayors in Cleveland and Atlanta.

Leaders of the civil rights movement are seen in action via archival footage and, in many cases, through interviews. These men and women include some as well known as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Muhammad Ali, but many others are seen and heard. Mose Wright, Rosa Parks, E. D. Nixon, Fannie Lou Hamer, Coretta Scott King, C. T. Vivian, John Lewis, Andrew Young Jr., James Forman, Stokely Carmichael, and Jesse Jackson are among them. Even this abbreviated list suggests the size of the movement, the diversity of its leaders, and the many facets of life in the United States that needed to be addressed. Again and again these leaders point to the absolutely essential involvement of large numbers of committed ordinary people who were willing to risk their lives for the rights and freedoms they sought.

Still photos, newspaper headlines, live-action news footage, and audio tapes gathered from many different archives are interwoven with contemporary interviews conducted specifically for Eyes on the Prize to give viewers a particularly instructive and important chronicle. Both African and European Americans are interviewed and the conflicts and confusion within the movement are included, but the perspective adopted by the makers of Eyes on the Prize is never in doubt. In Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words, "We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience." Eyes on the Prize is an extraordinarily rich resource for anyone wanting to learn about the civil rights movement and to understand the people who were involved in it. Among the printed materials available to provide additional information and insight into the civil rights movement and Eyes on the Prize are Juan Williams's Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954–1965 and Elizabeth Amelia Hadley's "Eyes on the Prize: Reclaiming Black Images, Culture, and History."

Janice R. Welsch and J. Q. Adams


Further Reading
Welsch, Janice R. and J.Q. Adams. Multicultural Films: A Reference Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005.
 

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