Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965

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Eyes on the Prize Interviews: The Complete Series

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 Interviewees

All of the interviews from Eyes on the Prize I and II are available online with full text search capability. Eyes on the Prize is a 14-part series which was originally released in two parts in 1987 and 1990. This series, which debuted on PBS stations, is considered to be the definitive documentary on the Civil Rights Movement. Eyes on the Prize won more than twenty major awards and attracted over 20 million viewers. These interviews are part of the Henry Hampton Collection housed at the Film and Media Archive at Washington University Libraries. Each transcript represents the entire interview conducted by Blackside including sections which appeared in the final program and the outtakes. This project is part of Washington University’s Digital Gateway and was produced by Digital Library Services and the Film and Media Archive.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s, America fought a second revolution to secure not only the “inalienable rights” and the equal treatment of individuals under law, but also, to provide “liberty and justice” for black Americans as well as white. Through contemporary interviews and historical footage, Eyes on the Prize: American’s Civil Right Years 1954-1965 tells, in six one-hour series, the human stories of a movement for social change.

  • Episode 1: Awakenings (1954-1956)
  • Episode 2: Fighting Back (1957-1962)
  • Episode 3: Ain’t Scared of Your Jails (1960-1961)
  • Episode 4: No Easy Walk (1961-1963)
  • Episode 5: Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964)
  • Episode 6: Bridge to Freedom (1965)

Episode 1: Awakenings (1954-1956) — highlights two extraordinary acts by ordinary people that focused the eyes of the nation on Southern battlefields: first, the murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi and Mose Wright’s courageous testimony identifying his nephew’s killers; then, Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man, which triggered the 12-month-long bus boycott that ended segregation in the Montgomery, Alabama, city bus system.

Key Interviews:

  • Curtis Jones, Emmett Till’s cousin
  • James Hicks, executive editor, Amsterdam News
  • E.D. Nixon, Montgomery community leader
  • The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
  • Rufus Lewis, Montgomery Improvement Association.

Episode 2: Fighting Back (1957-1962) — the 1957 collision between southern segregationists and federal authorities over the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and James Meredith’s 1962 challenge to the white-only enrollment policy of the University of Mississippi. In both instances, Southern governors squared off with US presidents, but integration of the schools was carried out.

Key Interviews:

  • Herbert Brownell, US Attorney General
  • Ernest Green, Central High School Senior
  • Melba Pattillo Beals, Central High School Junior
  • Myrlie Evers, wife of Medgar Evers, leader of Mississippi NAACP
  • The Honorable John Minor Wisdom, Judge, Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • John Doar, US Justice Department
  • Robert Ellis, University of Mississippi registrar
  • Nicholas Katzenbach, Assistant US Attorney General

In Episode 3: Ain’t Scared of Your Jails (1960-1961) — college students begin to take a leadership role in the civil rights movement. Lunch counter sit-ins spread from Nashville, Tennessee, through the South, giving life to a new force within the movement — the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The following year, many of these students found themselves facing death trying to break down segregation in interstate bus travel below the Mason-Dixon line, on the Freedom rides initiated by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

Key Interviews:

  • Leo Lillard, student activist
  • Diane Nash, SNCC leader
  • John Lewis, SNCC leader
  • The Rev. C.T. Vivian, Nashville community leader
  • John Patterson, Governor of Alabama
  • John Sigenthaler, Executive Assistant to Robert Kennedy
  • Frederick Leonard, Freedom Rider
  • James Farmer, CORE director

Episode 4: No Easy Walk (1961-1963) — the fourth program documents the years when the movement employed a strategy of mass demonstrations in Albany, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., emerges as the most articulate and charismatic proponent of non-violence as he leads the March on Washington, DC, revealing broad national support for the civil rights movement.

Key Interviews:

  • Laurie Pritchett, Albany Chief of Police
  • The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
  • David Vann, Birmingham lawyer
  • Charles Sherrod, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
  • William G. Anderson, President of the Albany Movement
  • Andrew Young, SCLC
  • The Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, SCLC
  • Coretta Scott King, wife of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Burke Marshall, Assistant US Attorney General
  • A.G. Gaston, Birmingham businessman
  • Courtland Cox, SNCC
  • The Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, SCLC

Episode 5: Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964) — details activists’ struggle to integrate Mississippi and the violent response of the state’s authorities.

Key Interviews:

  • Unita Blackwell, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
  • Hodding Carter III, editor, Delta Democrat-Times
  • Bob Moses, SNCC
  • Myrlie Evers, wife of Medgar Evers, leader of Mississippi NAACP
  • Dave Dennis, Council of Racial Equality (CORE)
  • William Simmons, Citizens’ Council
  • Peter Orris, voter registration organizer
  • Walter Mondale, Minnesota State Attorney General

In Episode 6: Bridge to Freedom (1965) — in the final program of the series, the lessons learned from earlier struggles are brought to bear in the climactic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. As the movement began to break up into factions, the Voting Rights Act became federal law.

Key Interviews:

  • James Forman, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
  • Joseph Smitherman, Mayor of Selma
  • Nicholas Katzenbach, US Attorney General
  • Frederick D. Reese, Selma Teachers Association
  • The Rev. C.T. Vivian, SCLC organizer
  • Jim Clark, Sheriff of Dallas County, Alabama
  • Andrew Young, SCLC organizer
  • George Wallace, Governor of Alabama
  • The Rev. Orloff Miller, Unitarian minister
  • Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Toure), SNCC
  • Burke Marshall, Assistant US Attorney General
  • John Lewis, SNCC

Premiere: Wednesday, January 21, 1987 PBS

Eyes on the Prize Interviews: The Complete Series

Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-1985 Interviewees

All of the interviews from Eyes on the Prize I and II are available online with full text search capability. Eyes on the Prize is a 14-part series which was originally released in two parts in 1987 and 1990. This series, which debuted on PBS stations, is considered to be the definitive documentary on the Civil Rights Movement. Eyes on the Prize won more than twenty major awards and attracted over 20 million viewers. These interviews are part of the Henry Hampton Collection housed at the Film and Media Archive at Washington University Libraries. Each transcript represents the entire interview conducted by Blackside including sections which appeared in the final program and the outtakes. This project is part of Washington University’s Digital Gateway and was produced by Digital Library Services and the Film and Media Archive.

Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-1985 Subject Index (pdf file)

Through historical footage and contemporary interviews these eight hour-long programs examine the triumphs and failures of individuals and communities eager to give flesh to the movement’s hard-won gains. The series also probes the transition to a more challenging time in this country’s social history.

Eyes on the Prize II takes viewers from the streets of Malcolm X’s Harlem to Oakland and the birth of the Black Panthers; from the frustrations of rioters in Detroit and Miami to the victory celebration for Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor; from ringside with Muhammad Ali to the “Mountain Top” speech of Martin Luther King on the eve of his assassination.

  • The Time Has Come (1964-1966)
  • Two Societies (1965-1968)
  • Power! (1966-1968)
  • The Promised Land (1967-1968)
  • Ain’t Gonna Shuffle No More (1964-1972)
  • A Nation of Law? (1968-1971)
  • The Keys to the Kingdom (1974-1980)
  • Back to the Movement (1979-mid 1980s)

The Time Has Come (1964-1966) — reveals a new ideology within the civil rights movement, the insistent call for power, as it gains popularity among black Americans. Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam strike a resonant chord in New York. Its echoes can be heard in the South, where the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) turns the call for “Freedom Now!” into one for “Black Power.

Key interviews:

  • Ossie Davis, actor and friend of Malcolm X
  • Mike Wallace, CBS News reporter
  • Alex Haley, co-author of
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • Stokley Carmichael, chairman of the SNCC

In Two Societies (1965-1968) — Martin Luther King and the Chicago Freedom Movement confront Mayor Daley’s machine with mixed results in a battle against segregated housing in Chicago. Pent-up anger explodes in Detroit, where a week of clashes between slum residents and police leaves 43 dead. One Detroit resident recalls, “When my daughter got to church she called back and said, ‘Momma, it’s Judgement Day…everything is burning.'”

Key interviews:

  • Albert Raby, Convenor, Coordinating Council of Community Organizations
  • Andrew Young, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
  • Ed Marciniak, Director of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations
  • Nancy Jefferson, Chicago resident and local community organizer
  • Jesse Jackson, SCLC
  • Bob Lucas, Director, Chicago CORE, leader of the march into Cicero
  • George Romney, Governor of Illinois
  • Roger Wilkins, Chief of Community Relations Services, the US Justice Department, sent by President Johnson to accompany federal troops into Detroit
  • Arthur Johnson, former Executive Secretary, NAACP, Detroit
  • John Nichols, Deputy Superintendent, Detroit police department
  • Eleanor Josaitis, Archbishop’s Committee for Human Relations, Detroit

Power! (1966-1968) — explores three paths taken to power. In Cleveland, voters elect Carl Stokes the city’s first black mayor. The Black Panthers take up law books, breakfast programs, and guns in Oakland. For a time, parents win educational control of their public school district in Brooklyn.

Key interviews:

  • Carl Stokes, Mayor of Cleveland
  • Seth Taft, Cleveland Republican mayoral candidate
  • Geraldine Williams, Stokes campaign secretary
  • Huey Newton, Black Panther Party Minister of Defense
  • Bobby Seale, Black Panther Party Chairman
  • Elaine Brown, Black Panther Party member
  • Richard Jensen, Oakland policeman
  • Fred Nauman, transferred teacher, Ocean Hill/Brownsville district
  • C. Herbert Oliver, President, Ocean Hill/Brownsville governing board
  • Rhody McCoy, unit administrator, Ocean Hill/Brownsville
  • Karriema Jordan, student, Ocean Hill/Brownsville

The Promised Land (1967-1968) — charts Martin Luther King’s often overlooked final year, from his declaration of opposition to the war in Vietnam, through the beginning of his Poor People’s Campaign, to his 1968 assassination in Memphis. As Dr. King said shortly before his death, “This is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots…but the real questions is whether we have the will.”

Key interviews:

  • Coretta Scott King, wife of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Andrew Young, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
  • Marian Wright Edelman, NAACP Legal Defense lawyer
  • Jesse Jackson, SCLC
  • Ralph Abernathy, SCLC
  • Marian Logan, SCLC
  • Michael Harrington, Democratic Socialists of America

In Ain’t Gonna Shuffle No More (1964-1972) — a new sense of black pride and black consciousness is evidenced by a prizefighter name Cassius Clay (a.k.a. Muhammad Ali), on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC, and at the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana. Harry Belafonte says of Ali, “[He] was the embodiment of the thrust of the movement…He didn’t care about money. He didn’t care about the white man’s success…He brought America to its most wonderful and most naked moment. [He said] I will not play your game. I will not kill in your behalf.”

Key interviews:

  • Sonia Sanchez, poet and teacher
  • Angelo Dundee, Muhammad Ali’s trainer
  • Herbert Muhammad, Muhammad Ali’s manager and son of Elijah Muhammad
  • Kareem Abdul Jabbar, high-school basketball player
  • Floyd Patterson, former heavyweight champion
  • Harry Belafonte, entertainer and civil rights activist
  • Paula Giddings, Howard University student
  • Kenneth Clark, Howard University trustee
  • Richard Hatcher, mayor of Gary, Indiana
  • Imamu Amiri Baraka, poet and community organizer
  • Jesse Jackson, national president, Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity)
  • Ben Chavis, community organizer for United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice

A Nation of Law? (1968-1971) — reveals the sometimes violent and unethical measures that law enforcers used to answer black political demands. The program explores the killing of two Black Panther leaders in Chicago and the rebellion at New York’s Attica state prison that left 43 dead.

Key interviews:

  • Elaine Brown, Black Panther Party member
  • Deborah Johnson, Black Panther Party member; Fred Hampton’s fiancee
  • Howard Saffold, Chicago policeman, Afro-American Patrolmen’s League
  • Flint Taylor, legal counsel to Chicago Black Panthers
  • William O’Neal, FBI informant
  • Angela Davis, prisoners’ rights activist
  • Jerris Leonard, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, Nixon administration
  • Russell Oswald, New York State Corrections Commissioner
  • Tom Wicker, New York Times Associate Editor
  • Frank Smith, Attica inmate
  • Michael Smith, Attica guard and hostage in the 1971 siege
  • Arthur Eve, New York State assemblyman

The Keys to the Kingdom (1974-1980) — antidiscrimination laws are put to the test. Boston’s schools are ordered to desegregate, but some whites resist violently. Affirmative Action scores a victory in Atlanta but is challenged with the Bakke Supreme Court case.

Key interviews:

  • Ruth Batson, Head of Boston NAACP education committee
  • Thomas Atkins, Boston NAACP leader
  • Kevin White, mayor of Boston
  • Jane Du Wors, Boston school busing opponent
  • Tracy Amalfitano, Boston school parent
  • Emma Darnell, Commissioner of Administrative Services, Atlanta
  • Maynard Jackson, Mayor of Atlanta
  • Robert Links, Lawyer for Allan Bakkle
  • Toni Johnson-Chavis, Affirmative-action student at University of California at Davis medical school

Back to the Movement (1979-mid 1980s) — In the Liberty City section of Miami, unrest follows the fatal shooting of a black citizen by the police. But in Chicago, an unprecedented grassroots crusade empowers the black community and takes Harold Washington to victory as the city’s first black mayor. The series ends with a look back at the people who made this movement a force for change in America.

Key interviews:

  • Dr. John Brown, longtime resident of Miami’s Overtown section
  • Athalle Range, longtime Overtown resident
  • Jesse Jackson, National President of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity)
  • Jane Byrne, Mayor of Chicago
  • Lu Palmer, Chicago community activist
  • Nancy Jefferson, Chicago community activist
  • Renault Robinson, Harold Washington’s campaign organizer

Premiere: Monday, January 15, 1990 PBS