SEPARATE, BUT EQUAL- a feature-length documentary
In this feature-length documentary, Henry Clay Anderson's photographs and the stories surrounding them will begin to reshape the images of African Americans in Mississippi during legal segregation. Despite the hardships imposed by segregation in the Deep South, these proud people supported their communities and each other, enjoyed church socials and family gatherings, clubs and sports. Mr. Anderson captured it all as his neighbors lived their lives separately but – in many ways – equally.
As both boy and man, Henry Clay
Anderson had fortitude. Receiving his first camera at age nine, he took to
roaming the dirt roads of Drew’s Plantation in Hollandale, Mississippi, taking
pictures of birds, hogs, chickens and houses. His neighbors regarded him as the
Box Camera Champion. As a man, after World War II, he wanted to open a
photography studio in Mississippi, but at the time there was no place in
Mississippi that taught photography to black people. Finally he received his training
on the GI Bill at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1947, he
opened Anderson Photo Service in Greenville, Mississippi.
In the middle of the last century when roving photojournalists
descended upon Mississippi to document the plight of African Americans and the
cruelty of Jim Crow, Mr. Anderson swung his camera, lanternlike, towards the
simple joys in life, including bubbling brown babies and bathing beauties. The
subjects in his pictures look proud and dignified. They seem to be saying,
“Yes, we are the descendants of the Africans who came to America as slaves. We have dreamed, raised our children, and
contributed to our community."
Nearly fifty years later, I met the retired photographer in his dilapidated studio and discovered thousands of corroding negatives and vintage prints under his kitchen sink. By now, Mr. Anderson had given up on preserving his photographic legacy. He told me about a college student who had interviewed him years ago and never came back. By the time Mr. Anderson died, he was a widower living alone in Greenville, but thanks to the Smithsonian Institute of African American History and Culture his photographs will live on for generations to come. His permanent exhibition is scheduled to open in Washington DC in 2016. A short version of this documentary will be a part of that installation.
I hope that the feature-length documentary highlighting Henry Clay Anderson’s photographs and the stories surrounding them will become a fresh perspective on this dark period in Mississippi's history. "Making pictures is like writing a story," says Mr. Anderson. "You got to tell the whole story."
It is my goal to have this film
shown at various film festivals, PBS Stations and a nationwide university tour
to promote History, Diversity, Culture Anthropology and Sociology.
Receiving financial contributions of all sizes are vital to the completion of this project. We are in the post-production phase and to obtain our goals we must complete the following:
editing, composing music, acquiring rights and clearances, color correcting,
final mixing, advertising, and distribution.