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Bring the inspirational story of James Armstrong, the Barber of Birmingham, to audiences everywhere in 2012. Read more

Novato, CA Documentary
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This project was successfully funded on September 20, 2012.

Bring the inspirational story of James Armstrong, the Barber of Birmingham, to audiences everywhere in 2012.

Novato, CA Documentary
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About this project

Project Description: 

AN ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATED FILM, The Barber of Birmingham tells the story of James Armstrong, a barber and “Foot Soldier” of the Civil Rights Movement, who battled to change America in the streets and forbidden voting booths of the deep South.  This movie has been recognized for its beautiful cinematography, enduring messages of persistence and hope, and for inspiring a new generation of voters, activists, and citizens.

Inspired by the historic election of 2008 in which the first African American won the presidential office, we wanted to tell the story of the aging Civil Rights activists in the South. The Barber of Birmingham is one man's story of his personal struggle against bigotry in Birmingham, Alabama. It reminds us of the extraordinary power of small and persistent action and resonates with audiences of all ages, races, and orientations; reminding us that each person can make a difference.

Through this personal story of Mr. James Armstrong, a "Foot Soldier" and unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement, there are many life lessons.  Most importantly, we can teach our younger generations about those whose shoulders we stand on and who have paved the way for our Civil Rights. 

To date the movie has only been seen on the festival circuit, at select screenings, and on August 9th, 2012, it aired for the first time on PBS.  Even though The Barber of Birmingham has received critical acclaim, the reality of short documentary filmmaking is that these projects are rarely commercial successes. Without the help of this Kickstarter campaign to clear final costs, there will be no way for people to buy the movie or share the life and message of The Barber of Birmingham in the future. Your support is critical for preserving this piece of history!

James Armstrong in his barber shop
James Armstrong in his barber shop

What Is Our Goal?

Our ultimate goal is to share the story of The Barber of Birmingham by making the DVD available for sale to audiences everywhere. To achieve our goal, we must cover final costs before we can release the film to the public. The threefold objectives of this Kickstarter are to cover the costs of:

  • Post production and music licensing fees
  • Developing curricula to introduce The Barber of Birmingham into classrooms nationwide
  • Our Kickstarter incentives

Your contributions to this Kickstarter campaign are risk free; the movie is already 100% complete and ready for distribution today.  Upon successful conclusion of this Kickstarter campaign, we will begin immediately to deliver our Kickstarter rewards, distribute the film and curricula to schools and colleges nationwide, and make the movie available for sale to the public on DVD.

Who We Are: 

The Barber of Birmingham is the joint vision of filmmakers Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday. 

Gail Dolgin
Gail Dolgin

Gail Dolgin - Best known for her documentary film, Daughter from Danang, was the winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary, nominated for an Academy Award and broadcast on the PBS American Experience series in 2003.  The award winning documentary The Barber of Birmingham was Gail’s final film.  She passed away in October of 2010 after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. 

Robin Fryday
Robin Fryday

Robin Fryday -  The 2012 Oscar nominated film The Barber of Birmingham is Robin’s first documentary.  She is currently working on a new film, Riding My Way Back, a documentary about our wounded service men and women and using Equine Therapy to treat PTSD.  She has recently directed her first documentary style commercial spot for Nonfiction Unlimited. Robin’s background as a still photographer spans over twenty years and is intricately linked to a commitment to use her work to help underprivileged children.

More About The Barber of Birmingham: 

With Mr. Armstrong's death in 2009 and the subsequent death of Gail Dolgin in 2010 during post-production, The Barber of Birmingham had more reasons to fail than succeed. Despite enormous challenges and against the odds, Robin was able to complete the movie. At each step of the way, The Barber of Birmingham has gained a small but growing group of "Foot Soldiers" for the movie, each of whom has been inspired to help. Robin is extremely grateful for the support she has received for this project.  We hope you will become a "Foot Soldier" for the movie and help us make The Barber of Birmingham available to audiences everywhere this fall.

The wall of James Armstrong's barber shop
The wall of James Armstrong's barber shop

Why Should I Become A Foot Soldier for the Movie? 

"This film is an important thread in the fabric of America; it speaks to the true virtues of humanity and freedom that my grandfather unselfishly sacrificed his life for to secure a better America for future generations. I'm not only blessed, but also proud to be part of my grandfather's legacy, and have committed myself to following his life lessons in my own way. No matter who you are or what your political philosophy might be, this film is the gateway for understanding how far we've come and how far we still need to go. The struggle continues." Darren Armstrong, Grandson of James Armstrong

The Barber of Birmingham tells an inspiring story of human struggle and 2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama and an important time to remember the commitment of Mr. Armstrong and the Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement to advancing Civil Rights for all Americans. 

Teachers are among the most vocal advocates for The Barber of Birmingham, readily seeing in the film an engaging story which is just the right length for classroom viewing and in-class discussion. Among non-academic audiences the film is enjoyed for its fresh take on Civil Rights, acknowledging the efforts of the many men and women who took a stand along with James Armstrong.

How Do I Pledge? 

Click the green button in the upper right-hand corner of this page. It looks like this:

You will be asked to input your pledge amount and select a reward. From there, you will go through the Amazon checkout process. You must finish the Amazon checkout process for your pledge to be recorded. 

What Happens If We Don't Reach Our Goal? 

If funding fails, your card won't be charged and all pledges will be cancelled. 

What Happens If We Exceed Our Goal? 

The more money we raise, the more we can do to spread the movie and its message far and wide.

Can I Pledge Through My Business? 

Yes. Anyone with an Amazon account can join this Kickstarter campaign AND businesses will be acknowledged in their own section at our website.

When Will I Receive My Reward? 

At each reward level you’ll find details for expected shipment. In most cases, rewards ship between October and December of 2012. 

Can You Donate In Another's Name? 

Of course! We will contact you once funding is complete to gather information so that we can get your incentives to you. Just let us know then the name you would like to donate under. 

Is My Pledge Tax Deductible? 

Yes. Contributions are tax deductible. Contact us to make arrangements at

Can I Pledge From Outside the United States? 

Yes. Just click on the Amazon Payment Button and you will see that you can pay with a credit card from any anywhere. But, you must finish the Amazon checkout process for your pledge to be recorded. If you have any problems just contact us. 

Want to Help But Unable to Donate? 

Become an Outreach Partner. Spread the word about The Barber of Birmingham and the Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement and receive a special Outreach Partner credit on our website. We would love it if you could help spread the word by: 

• Telling your friends about The Barber of Birmingham

• "Liking", tweeting, and sharing the video at the top of the page 

• Posting a link to our Kickstarter page on your Facebook and Twitter pages 

• Liking us on Facebook and Following us on Twitter 

“Dying ain't the worst thing a man can do. The worst thing a man can do is to do nothing. I want to live for a purpose.” James Armstrong.

Follow Us At: 

The Barber of Birmingham Website

The Barber of Birmingham Facebook Page

Robin Fryday Documentarian

Contact Us At:


"In The Barber of Birmingham, Robin Fryday skillfully crafted a glimpse of my father's lifetime civil rights commitment. Seeing his story, we realize that his contributions and those of countless unnamed civil rights warriors of the 50's and 60's formed the bridge for desegregation and equal rights in this country. With a meager education, my father did great things because he understood God's purpose for his life. Everyday for over 50 years he did his part to improve the quality of life for our family and the greater community he loved so dearly. Viewing the film in retrospect and seeing how well it has been received, has blessed me with a greater understanding of the magnitude of his character. I am forever grateful to have experienced his daily lessons growing up in Birmingham and I am especially proud that I played a small role in his life's never ending quest for freedom and equality."  Dwight Armstrong, Son of James Armstrong

"The Barber of Birmingham is an important and deeply moving film for the ages. The ability to vote – to have a voice in choosing the elected officials whose decisions impact our lives, families, communities, and country – is at the core of our democracy and what it means to be an American. For more than 200 years, the struggle to expand the right to vote has been critical to fulfilling the promise of our nation, and that struggle continues to this very day. No one who sees this film will ever take the right to vote for granted again.” Wade Henderson, president and CEO, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

"Our history can be instructive and inspirational to the next generation, to whom we pass the burdens and hopes of our democracy. But first, we have an obligation to teach this history and tell the stories of those who made our dreams possible so the next generation of responsible and moral citizens can, in turn, help make their childrens' dreams come true. The Academy Award nominated The Barber of Birmingham accomplishes this, and all children in America must see this movie as a part of that inspiration." Craig Witherspoon, Superintendent, Birmingham City Schools.

"Robin Fryday is a compelling storyteller. And, what a story she has to tell! For everyone who wonders how sweeping societal changes occur, be prepared to be inspired and humbled in the presence of James Armstrong. As his story closes, you cannot help but want to stand up and continue the journey." Debbie Granger, State Director for National History Day California.

The Barber of Birmingham deftly weaves emotional storytelling and detailed facts to connect us with the history of the Civil Rights Movement as seen through the eyes of one of its passionate foot soldiers. I recently included the film as part of our youth education program where it played to a captivated audience of public high school students at Berkeley High School. The film not only provided an engaging learning experience for the kids but it also had them thinking about their own heritage and family histories. They came away from it with a greater respect and understanding of the rights and freedoms they enjoy today as citizens of the US. Freedoms that were made possible by the sacrifices of earlier generations of African Americans. Filmmakers Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin have put together a compelling piece of work that I would highly recommend for use within the high school classroom for teachers looking closely at social justice issues in their curriculum. We work with over 10,000 students each year and teachers are always seeking out experiences for their kids that will connect them with the world around them in meaningful ways. The Barber of Birmingham is a perfect resource.” Keith Zwolfer, Youth Education Program Manager San Francisco Film Society.

“Today’s students were born long after the Civil Rights Movement. The Barber of Birmingham animates what could be an uninteresting, abstract historical concept.  It engages students by illustrating how movements can responsibly effect change. James Armstrong’s story inspires students to consider the sacrifices made to win the right to vote and to honor those sacrifices by voting. This is storytelling and history at its best; every student deserves the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by the barber.” Whitney Olson, History Channel Educator Award, 2011 and Director National History Day-Sonoma County.

"Thank you for sharing your beautiful film-it was truly an honor to meet the participants and the "foot soldiers" of the Civil Rights Movement. It is such a great way to show students the reality of history and the genuine human impact that is possible with film. This was a great experience for our students to see a personal and evocative Academy Award nominated film and be able to discuss with the film makers afterwords. Thank you for this powerful experience." Gabriel Berent, Visual Arts Teacher, Berkeley High.

“As an historian and educator, I can't imagine teaching Civil Rights without The Barber of Birmingham. Not only does this film have significant historical value, it is also undeniably relevant. Students need to make connections between past and present; The Barber of Birmingham inspires and empowers students to recognize the role of individual actions in the past, present, and future.” Stacy Sempson, Middle School Teacher, Woodside Elementary School.

Recent News: 






TAVIS SMILEY INTERVIEWS ROBIN FRYDAY 2/16/12 — Watch the video. Watch the video.

MORE NEWS? Click here.


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    Thank you for your generous support! You'll receive a personal thank you email from Robin Fryday, updates and inclusion on the Donor Wall at

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    All the above PLUS a digital download of previously unseen movie stills from The Barber of Birmingham.

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    All the above PLUS a Limited Edition Barber of Birmingham logo comb in a retro vinyl case.

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    All of the above PLUS an 8" x 10" movie still signed by Robin Fryday and suitable for framing.

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    37 backers

    All the above PLUS a special Kickstarter version of The Barber of Birmingham on DVD.

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    All of the above PLUS a Limited Edition Barber of Birmingham reusable shopping bag.

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    A thank you email, updates, acknowledgement on our Donor Wall, comb, 8" x 10" movie still, the shopping bag PLUS The Barber of Birmingham on Blu-ray DVD.

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    Same as the $70 package PLUS an 11" x 17" signed movie poster AND a surprise gift chosen for you by the director.

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    Two of everything in the $100 package, one for you and one for a friend PLUS a 15 minute conversation with the director.

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    8 backers

    A hand written personal thank you from Robin Fryday, inclusion on our Donor Wall, the comb, digital downloads, bag, signed 11" x 17" movie poster PLUS a premium DVD package including The Barber of Birmingham and a second DVD of unseen movie footage AND a 15 minute phone conversation with the director.

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    Everything in the $500 package PLUS coffee with the director (in the SF Bay Area, travel costs not included) OR a 1/2 hour phone conversation with the director.

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    2 backers

    Everything you get for $750 package, BUT, instead of coffee, the director will treat you to lunch (in the SF Bay Area, travel costs not included) OR your choice of any picture from Robin Fryday's website ( signed and printed on fine art paper.

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    Everything in the $500 package PLUS a private West Coast screening for up to twenty people with director Robin Fryday (Mainland U.S. only. Travel not included. Date TBD.)

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    1 backer

    Everything in the $500 package PLUS tickets to see The Barber of Birmingham at the 50th Anniversary of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama in March 2013 AND dinner with the director (Specific Dates TBD.)

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    1 backer

    Everything in the $500 package PLUS two domestic airline tickets to Birmingham, Alabama to spend the day touring Birmingham with Robin Fryday and friends. Enjoy dinner with Robin AND two tickets for a showing of The Barber of Birmingham at the 50th Anniversary of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement in March 2013 (Specific Date TBD.)

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Funding period

- (30 days)