The 1995 Academy Award winning film, A Time for Justice, produced by Guggenheim Productions and the Southern Poverty Law Center about the civil rights struggle in the U.S., will again be available at no charge to schools, according to an announcement at the Fifth Annual Charles Guggenheim Tribute Program last week at National Archives.
The lack of civil rights history taught in American public schools makes the film “so, so necessary, so needed today,” said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center which will distribute the film along with a teacher’s guide, lesson plans, and a poster.
Indeed, most schools get “a failing grade” in civil rights history instruction, he said.
Cohen was a member of the program’s panel which included Julian Bond, the civil rights leader and narrator of Justice, and Nick Kotz, journalist and author who served as moderator. Their talk followed screening of the movie to an almost “sold-out” audience at the William G. McGowan Theater at Archives.
With the push for schools to teach mainly math and reading as dictated by the No Child Left Behind Act, instruction of other subjects, especially history, has been minimized in public schools, the panel agreed. The distribution of the film will enable students to catch a glimpse of a shocking period in American history that many will find sad and unbelievable, that the incidents and crimes took place in the United States.
With original film clips, photographs, and narration by key players, the 38-minute film tells the stories of Emmett Till, Little Rock, Rosa Parks, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the Freedom Riders.
To believe that race is no longer an issue in the U.S. is “foolishness,” Mr. Bond, 71, said. Segregation is still “a major, major problem all over the country,” and “schools are as segregated now” as they were after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, with the possible exception of schools in the South.
On the west coast “Hispanic children are rigidly segregated,” and Mr. Bond faulted the courts, previous administrations, and the Obama administration for not doing more to promote integration.
Today’s national political mood has enabled Republican “assaults” in more than a dozen states on voting and voter registration to make them more difficult for “ordinary people,” an effort Mr. Bond characterized as nothing but an attempt to reduce votes for Democratic candidates.
When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, President Lyndon Johnson and the U.S. Congress worked together well in bi-partisan fashion.
Where’s the LBJ of today? Mr. Kotz asked.
Panelists said they live in fear at times because extremist hate groups have targeted them, including publication of Mr. Bond’s home address. He credited the Washington, D.C. police force for keeping his family safe.
Charles Guggenheim (1924-2002) made more than 100 documentaries, won four Academy Awards, three Emmys, and the George Foster Peabody Award, and is considered one of the founders of the American documentary. The presidential libraries of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Truman commissioned him to produce film biographies of those presidents.
Mr. Guggenheim’s daughter, Grace Guggenheim, the president of Guggenheim Productions, Inc., made opening remarks at the program.