Documentary that revisits the 1970 integration of the public schools in my father's home town of Yazoo City, MS.
I am seeking funding for a feature-length documentary tentatively entitled Yazoo Revisited. The film will examine the racial and social politics of small town Mississippi in the second half of the 20th century through the lens of the integration and re-segregation of the local public school system. It will briefly recount the events leading up to the integration of the public schools in my father’s hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi in January 1970, and pick up the story where his 1971 book, Yazoo: Integration in a Deep Southern Town left off.
After the Brown decision in 1954, attempts to integrate the public schools in the South were met with stiff resistance from white parents, lawyers and school officials. While a handful of black students were able to enroll at Yazoo High in 1967, their presence did not establish the racial balance necessary to comply with Brown. Finally, in the fall of 1969, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that Mississippi public schools must implement full integration immediately.
Rumors of violence, mass boycotts by white students, and a rush by many parents to establish all-white, private academies quickly ensued. Journalists from around the country descended on Yazoo City to cover the story. My father, then the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Magazine returned as well. His account of the events, Yazoo: Integration in a Deep Southern Town, was published in 1971. Unlike many other towns in the state, Yazoo City’s transition to become an integrated school system went smoothly and without incident and the Yazoo City public schools became, at least for while, a model for racial diversity in Mississippi. It was only in the 1990’s that they slowly began to re-segregate. Today Yazoo High School, like many of the public schools in Mississippi, is almost entirely black.
In the fall of 2010, then Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, presumed to be a candidate for the presidency in 2012, commented in the Weekly Standard that “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.” Intrigued by his comments, I needed to revisit my father’s work and find out for myself what had happened since. Though a still photographer by trade, I decided that a documentary film would be the most effective medium to chronicle the years since 1971. For the past year, I have researched Yazoo City’s recent history and conducted interviews with various teachers and graduates of the high school, and community leaders. Now I have more than 20 hours of footage and a fascinating story about race and politics is beginning to emerge. Thus far, the project has been mostly self-funded and a modest grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council will allow me to produce a 20-minute version by the summer.
Funding obtained through Kickstarter will allow me to complete Phase One of the project: conduct more interviews and research, identify archival footage, and complete principal photography by the end of the year. Funds raised over the goal will be applied to Phase Two of the project: post-production, editing, and acquiring the rights to archival material. Estimated release date will be the summer of 2013.
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Pledges of $10 will receive a set of four postcards of photographs from my book "My Mississippi."Estimated delivery:
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Pledges of $25 will receive a "Yazoo Revisited" bumper sticker, plus previous rewards.Estimated delivery:
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Pledges of $100 or more will receive a finished copy of the film on DVD plus all previous rewards.Estimated delivery:
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Pledges of $250 will receive an 8 1/2 x 11 inkjet of a photograph of my father and his beloved dog, Pete, plus all previous rewards.Estimated delivery:
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Pledges of $500 will receive a copy of the re-issue of my father's (Willie Morris) book "Yazoo: Integration in a Deep Southern Town," due out later this year, plus all previous rewards.Estimated delivery:
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Pledges of $1,000 will receive a 20 x 24 limited edition (of 25) pigment print of a of my father and his dog Pete, plus all previous rewards.Estimated delivery:
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Pledges of $5,000 or more will receive credit as Executive Producer and a personal tour of Willie’s Yazoo City. Note:you pay your own way to get there or to Jackson, MS. Schedule negotiable. Plus all previous rewards.Estimated delivery:
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