Civil rights content from Brown Media Archives and UGA Libraries in the PBS series “The Future of America’s Past”

Title screen from the PBS program "The Future of America's Past"

On the May 17th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that ruled against segregation in public schools, we are pleased to report that civil rights content from the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection and the University of Georgia Libraries, available in the Civil Rights Digital Library and the Digital Library of Georgia were included in “School Interrupted,” an episode from the second season of the PBS series “The Future of America’s Past.”

This content includes:

  • footage from a WSB-TV newsfilm clip dated July 27, 1962, that includes scenes related to the closure of public schools and education for African Americans in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The WSB-TV collection consists of over 5 million feet of newsfilm from WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia, and coverage of national civil rights events, such as those in Prince Edward County, Virginia.

On May 17, 1954, the United States Supreme Court in the Brown v. Board of Education case ruled against segregation in public schools. That case included a case against segregated education that was brought against Prince Edward County in 1951. After the Brown ruling, Virginia state officials instituted a plan of “massive resistance” to court-ordered integration, passing laws to close integrated schools and provide tuition grants to displaced white students. After both state and federal courts overturned the school closing law in January 1959, governor J. Lindsay Almond called a special legislative session and announced the end to the state’s policy of massive resistance. That fall, leaders in Prince Edward County chose to close the public school system rather than allow integration. White citizens established the Prince Edward School Foundation as a private school system for the 1,500 white school children in the county. The 1,700 African American schoolchildren were left without educational opportunities in the county. Some were sent to live with relatives in other parts of Virginia and attend classes there, some began college early, and some accepted arrangements to attend school in other states; most remained out of school until the fall of 1964 when federal courts ordered Prince Edward County to reopen its public school system.

In the episode “School Interrupted,” the program highlights a student strike in Prince Edward County that followed the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The program’s host, Ed Ayers, learns about the drama that unfolded through conversations with two of the student strikers. He discovers how black women activists defied the school closures by starting grassroots schools, and he meets an author whose grandfather helped start the whites-only “segregation academy” Prince Edward Academy. In a museum at the school that started it all, Ed Ayers talks with a descendant of strikers who inspires students today to take up the fight for justice.


Moore’s Ford lynchings and anti-lynching movement resources in the DLG

Stetson Kennedy's handwritten notes on the Moore's Ford lynching in Monroe.
Stetson Kennedy’s handwritten notes on the Moore’s Ford lynching in Monroe. Lynching, 1936-1949; undated. Local identification number: L1979-37_1514_40. Stetson Kennedy papers, Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.

July 25 is the seventieth anniversary of the Moore’s Ford lynchings, where George W. Dorsey, Mae Murray Dorsey, Roger Malcom and Dorothy Malcom, all Walton County sharecroppers, were killed by a white mob near Moore’s Ford Bridge in Monroe, Georgia. The lynching was reported in the national press, and was investigated by both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. Despite these efforts to seek justice, no one was ever indicted for the crime.

On July 25, the Moore’s Ford Movement is hosting the 12th annual reenactment of the lynchings that begins at 10 a.m. at First African Baptist Church in Monroe, and travels to the Moore’s Ford bridge.

There are numerous resources in the DLG, the New Georgia Encyclopedia, and the Civil Rights Digital Library about people who worked for the anti-lynching movement.

Here are a few:

Lynching, 1936-1949; undated

Clippings and notes regarding lynching collected and written by investigative reporter and labor activist Stetson Kennedy.  Page 30 of the PDF includes Kennedy’s handwritten notes on the Moore’s Ford lynching in Monroe.


Commission on Interracial Cooperation

New Georgia Encyclopedia article about the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC), founded in Atlanta in 1919, which worked until its merger with the Southern Regional Council in 1944 to oppose lynching, mob violence, and peonage and to educate white southerners concerning the worst aspects of racial abuse.


Oral history interview with Willie Snow Ethridge, December 15, 1975

During the 1920s and 1930s, Ethridge was actively involved in the anti-lynching movement. Working primarily within the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, Ethridge both wrote and spoke about lynching and its implications for African Americans and poor whites.

Here is an excerpt from her oral history interview where she discusses working for the anti-lynching movement in the 1920s and 1930s.


Oral history interview with Clark Foreman, November 16, 1974

This interview covers three separate conversations with Clark Foreman regarding his career in race relations, public service, and politics. His childhood in Georgia and his travels in Europe led to his work for the Commission on Interracial Cooperation in Atlanta. Foreman witnessed a lynching while he attended University of Georgia. The event seemed horrific and barbaric to him and to his family members. Here is an excerpt from his oral history interview where he discusses witnessing the lynching.


Oral History Interview with Broadus Mitchell, August 14 and 15, 1977

This interview with economic historian John Broadus Mitchell , who, while teaching at Johns Hopkins University in the 1930s came under the administration’s scrutiny when he publicly spoke out about a lynching in Salisbury, Maryland. Here is an excerpt about that experience.