FROM MDAH RELEASES — On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act, one of the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in United States history. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of this watershed event, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History partnered with the Southern Documentary Project, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, to produce an original short film, “50 Years and Forward: The Voting Rights Act in Mississippi.”
“At the Southern Documentary Project we’re dedicated to telling Mississippi stories through film, and MDAH with its extensive archival holdings is an ideal partner for us,” said Becca Walton, associate director of projects at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and co-producer of the movie. “We hope our film will help introduce the public to the collections, like the Moncrief Photograph Collection, that tell such a powerful story about the struggle for civil rights in the state.”
The documentary film traces some of the events that led to the passage of the act through historical materials and contemporary interviews with eight key players: Robert G. Clark Jr., the first African American to be elected to the Mississippi legislature since Reconstruction, Flonzie Brown Wright, the first African American woman to hold office in Mississippi since Reconstruction, former Mississippi governor William F. Winter, Mississippi state senators John Horhn and David L. Jordan, former Jackson City Council president Leslie-Burl McLemore, Civil Rights activists Rims Barber and Rev. Wendell Paris of New Hope Baptist Church, and Mississippi State University professor of political science K.C. Morrison.
The department premiered the film in September to a standing-room-only crowd of nearly 150 people at the William F. Winter Archives Building. A panel discussion moderated by Andy Harper, one of the film’s producers, followed the screening. Panelists Rims Barber, Leslie-Burl McLemore, and Flonzie Brown Wright discussed their experiences before and after the Voting Rights Act and answered questions from the audience.
The twelve-minute documentary can be viewed on the department’s YouTube channel, MDAHVideo, along with other short films and documentaries produced by the department.
Click here to view the film.