These texts, in a combination of genres (fiction, film, prose, poetry, and other media), provide great springboards through which you might explore some of the racial complexities of segregationist politics in the United States. They are also important because they represent the ways in which authors, other artists, and journalists have transformed political and social landscapes mired in racial oppression.
Hunter-Gault, Charlayne. In My Place. New York: Vintage, 1992. (ISBN: 0679748180)
Hunter-Gault's extraordinary autobiography is at once an account of her role in the Civil Rights movement--at 19 she became the first black woman to desegregate the University of Georgia--and the story of the childhood in the American South of the 1940s and '50s that prepared her for it. In My Place is a powerful act of witness to the brutal realities of segregation and pays homage to the black culture that prepared Hunter-Gault to challenge hatred and transcend it. Charlayne Hunter-Gault has been a journalist for more than 40 years and has worked in every journalistic medium. She has received numerous awards for her reporting in general, and specifically for her coverage of Africa. In 1985, she received broadcast journalism's highest award--a George Foster Peabody for her 1985 five-part MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour series, "Apartheid's People." Hunter-Gault earned another Peabody in 1998 for her overall coverage of Africa for National Public Radio. She also won awards for "Rights and Wrongs," a television newsmagazine reporting on human rights, which she anchored. Hunter-Gault has lived in Africa since 1997, working as Chief Africa Correspondent for National Public Radio, based in Johannesburg, and later as Johannesburg Bureau Chief for CNN, a position she held until 2005, when she left to pursue independent journalistic projects, including reporting on the continent for NPR as a special correspondent. Hunter-Gault was born in Due West, SC., and made civil rights history as the first African-American woman to attend the University of Georgia, where she received a B.A. in journalism in 1962. She also attended Wayne State University.
Skin Deep (1999) (60 minutes)
This documentary, narrated by Alfre Woodard, examines the fight against legal, institutionalized racism in the United States and South Africa. Chronicles the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the struggle for civil rights in the United States.
The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords (90 minutes)
This engaging historical account tells the story of the pioneering men and women of the Black press who gave voice to Black America. The film made its television broadcast premiere on February 8, l999 on PBS as part of its celebration of Black history month. In addition to the television broadcast, SOLDIERS WITHOUT SWORDS was screened at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival in the documentary category. It is the first documentary to provide an in-depth examination of the history and contributions of African American newspapers. Since the early 1800’s Black newspapers have existed in almost every major city in the U.S. Collectively, these papers contain the most detailed record of African American life in existence. “I was looking through black newspapers while researching two other historical documentaries," says multi-award winning filmmaker, Stanley Nelson. "I was both excited and overwhelmed by the volume of research materials that laid before me. I realized then that Black newspapers were fascinating in themselves and told their own story." Collectively, these papers contain the most detailed record of African American life in existence.
Have you heard from Johannesburg? Apartheid and the Club of the West (90 mins)
This film looks at the relationship between the United States and South Africa during the 1980s. The film focuses on the anti-apartheid movement, which effected changes of policy in companies, universities, and the U.S. Congress.
Freedom’s Call (2006) (50 minutes)
Two African-American journalists who covered the events of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties return to the deep South where it all took place. The journalists are Dorothy Gilliam,who later became first female African American reporter at The Washington Post, and Ernest Withers, renowned photographer whose photos were published in the black press, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. Their journey brings back memories of those turbulent times.
Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony (2003) (103 minutes)
This documentary tells the story of black South African freedom music and the central role it played against apartheid. The first film to specifically consider the music that sustained and galvanized black South Africans for more than 40 years, Amandla’s focus is on the struggle’s spiritual dimension, as articulated and embodied in song, Named for the Xhosa word for “power,” Amandla! lives up to its title, telling an uplifting story of human courage, resolve, and triumph.
In My Country (2004) (103 minutes)
Langston Whitfield (Samuel L. Jackson) is a Washington Post journalist. His editor provocatively sends him to South Africa to cover the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, in which the perpetrators of murder and torture on both sides during apartheid are invited to come forward and confront their victims. By telling the unvarnished truth and expressing contrition, they may be granted amnesty. Can the deep wounds of apartheid be healed through reconciliation? Langston is deeply skeptical. He tracks down Col. De Jager, the most notorious torturer in the SA Police and tries to penetrate the mind of a monster, an experience that obliges him to confront his own demons. Anna Malan (Juliette Binoche), is an Afrikaans poet who is covering the hearings for radio. As a white South African, she is shattered by the accounts of the cruelty and depravity committed by her fellow countrymen. Anna and Langston must both question their sense of identity. Where do they each belong? How responsible are they for what is done in he name of their respective countries? The moving testimony of the victims affects them deeply. In different was they are both estranged from their families, and their shared experience draws them ever closer to eah other. It is a story charting the unfathomable depths of human cruelty and the redeeming power of forgiveess and love.
Donald Woods' Cry Freedom (1987) (2hrs and 37 minutes)
Students will meet prior to departure to discuss this film about the role of the media in pre- and post-apartheid South Africa. The screening will be central to their discussions with their contemporaries at the Universities of Cape Town and Rhodes, and the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance. Attendance is mandatory. Directed by Richard Attenborough, and starring Denzel Washington as Steve Biko and Kevin Kline as Donald Woods, Mattias Thuresson summarizes the film as follows:
Donald Woods is chief editor at the liberal newspaper Daily Dispatch in South Africa. He has written several editorials critical of the views of Steve Biko. But after having met him for the first time, he changes his views. They meet several times, and this means that Woods and his family get attention from the security police. When Steve Biko dies in police custody, he writes a book about Biko. The only way to get it published is for Woods himself to illegally escape the country. Part of the film was shot in Zimbabwe because South Africa’s apartheid regime did not allow filming. It speaks of the sacrifice of two men determined to overcome the mistrust and division politics and race have inflicted on their people.
Tsotsi (2005) (94 minutes)
A young man running with a criminal gang on the streets of Johannesburg, Tsotsi - a nickname meaning thug - is immersed in a world of violence that seems to leave him unaffected, until he discovers an infant in the backseat of a car he has stolen.
Yesterday (2006) (95 minutes)
After falling ill, Yesterday learns that she is HIV positive. With her husband in denial and a young daughter to tend to, Yesterday's one goal is to live long enough to see her child go to school. Set against the awesome, harsh landscapes of South Africa.
The Promised Land (2010) (52 minutes)
This PBS documentary explores the complexities of land redistribution in South Africa from all sides.