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Highlights Archives

Film Series to Focus on Civil Rights Struggle

Members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party picketing for voting rights and civil rights in Washington, D.C. in the 1960s
WHI 98009

The Wisconsin Historical Society will host a four-part documentary film series, "Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle," at the Society's Madison headquarters from February through April. A distinguished group of university history and law professors will show segments of four powerful films and then moderate a discussion of the documentaries with audience members. The film series will commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer and the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act. All the films will be free and open to the public and will air at 7 pm in the auditorium of the Society's headquarters at 816 State Street.

The Films and Their Moderators

  • The first film in the series, 'The Abolitionists,' vividly brings to life the struggles of the men and women who led the battle to end slavery. Professor Andrew Kahrl of Marquette University will moderate the post-screening discussion on Wednesday, February 5.
  • Professor Tonya Brito of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School will moderate the second film in the series, 'The Loving Story,' on Tuesday, March 4. Through little-known filmed interviews and photographs shot for Life magazine, the film tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving. Virginia police woke them up in their bedroom in the middle of the night and arrested them for being an interracial couple.
  • On Tuesday, March 25, Professor Edward Schmitt of UW-Parkside will moderate the Emmy Award-winning 'Freedom Riders.' The film tells the terrifying story of white and black volunteers who rode a bus into the Deep South, risking assaults and arrest as white local and state authorities ignored or encouraged violent attacks.
  • Professor Will Jones of UW-Madison will close out the series with a talk and discussion of 'Slavery by Another Name' on Tuesday, April 22. This film features interviews with the descendants of victims and perpetrators of trumped-up crimes in the Deep South intended to create a captive force of unpaid labor.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Bridging Cultures initiative have generously underwritten the "Created Equal" film series. While only segments of the four films will air during the evening sessions due to their length, the Society will make the films available in their entirety in the Society's Library Reading Room. They may also be viewed online at

Showcasing the Society's Civil Rights Collections

A young man at a nighttime civil rights rally, 1964
A young man at a nighttime civil
rights rally, 1964 WHI 98097
Forward-thinking student workers on the Society's staff in 1964 who witnessed firsthand the turbulent events taking place in the American South — and recognized they were seeing history in the making — encouraged the Society to proactively document the struggle for civil rights. Consequently, a half century later, the Society's civil rights holdings are among the most comprehensive in the nation.

The Society will showcase its own extensive civil rights collections online during the three-month run of the film series. To see a host of official records, personal papers, letters and diaries, racist propaganda, magazine articles, newspaper clippings, and photographs and graphics documenting Freedom Summer, visit our Freedom Summer website.

One of the Society's other unique and extensive collections relating to civil rights is its collection of African-American newspapers and periodicals. You can learn more about that collection by visiting our African-American newspapers page. A number of other Society civil rights records can be explored on UW-Milwaukee's March on Milwaukee website.

For more information on the "Created Equal" film series or the Society's civil rights collections, contact Rick Pifer at 608-264-6477, weekdays 8 am to 4 pm, or Gayle Martinson at 608-264-6535, weekdays 4 to 9 pm.

:: Posted December 19, 2013

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