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Washington University Film & Media Archive

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) -- 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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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

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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.

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Premiere: Wednesday, January 21, 1987 PBS