PLATTSBURGH — “Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle” offers, one film at a time, a crash course in American civil-rights history.
The four-part film series is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of its “Bridging Cultures” initiative in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
The series uses the power of documentaries as a springboard for community discussion. Julie Wever was the catalyst for bringing it here.
“We received a notice from the National Endowment of the Humanities,” said Wever, who is a librarian and outreach coordinator at the Clinton Essex Franklin Library System.
“We were interested in this topic. We thought it would be good for the system to promote this information through our member libraries.”
Wever submitted an application and identified community partners.
“That included the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association,” Wever said. “Peter Slocum, there, is the front person on the project. He’s taken the ball and run with it and made a lot of good contacts for us. We’re pleased we could partner with the Underground Railroad Association and exciting new partners.”
Co-sponsors are the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, the Plattsburgh Public Library and the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System.
At 1 p.m. Saturday, “The Abolitionists” is the first offering in the series.
It is “the story of a small group of moral reformers in the 1830s that launched one of the most ambitious social movements imaginable: the immediate emancipation of millions of enslaved African Americans,” according to a press release. Discussion leader is Dr. J.W. Wiley, director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion at SUNY Plattsburgh.
The Clinton Essex Franklin Library System is among more than 470 institutions nationwide that were awarded “Created Equal.”
“The timing of the award was to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation,” Wever said.
“We were awarded the grant in July 2013. We were supposed to develop at least three public events focused on themes from the films.”
The second installment of “The Abolitionists” screens Feb. 8 and discussion is led once again by Wiley.
On Saturday, Feb. 15, “Freedom Riders” offers “an inside look at a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights struggle, when a brave band of activists challenged segregation in the Deep South,” a press release states. Discussion leader is Jackie Madison, president of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association.
On Saturday, Feb. 22, “Slavery By Another Name” explores, once slavery was legally abolished, “new forms of forced labor kept thousands of African Americans in bondage until the onset of World War II.” Discussion leader is Wiley.
The series concludes Saturday, March 1, with the “The Loving Story.” In 1958, “Richard and Mildred Loving were arrested for violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. Their struggle culminated in a landmark Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia (1967).” Discussion leaders are Robin Caudell, a P-R staff writer who wrote a local series on the Loving story, and Portia Allie-Turco, a lecturer at SUNY Plattsburgh. She is originally from South Africa, where she and her husband, Marco Turco, wed in an interracial marriage shortly after the end of apartheid.
“The Gilder Lehrman Institute did a really nice job with the supporting information and documentation,” Wever said. “It’s a really well-done project in my experience. We have high hopes for the discussion series.”
Email Robin Caudell:firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @RobinCaudellIF YOU GO WHAT: "Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle." WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday, "The Abolitionists." 1 p.m. Feb. 8: "The Abolitionists," part two. 1 pm. Feb. 15: "Freedom Riders." 1 pm. Feb. 22: "Slavery By Another Name." 1 p.m. March 1: "The Loving Story." WHERE: Plattsburgh Public Library, 19 Oak St. ADMISSION: Free and open to public.