I use to think freedom was solid, something gained but never lost. But as I made Children of the Civil Rights, I realized that freedom is like water. It’s like the kind of water contained in a reservoir.
1895 – Winston Churchill as Cornet (Second Lieutenant) in the 4th’s Queen’s Own Hussars. Credit: PA/PA Archieves/Press Association Image
Winston Churchill once said, “The farther back you look, the farther forward you can see.”
And that is so true!
You can see that we do lose freedom and it happens just like the way a reservoir dries up … slowly … incrementally.
Sometimes, the impact of past laws can take whole centuries to fully understand. This seems to be what America is facing now with Black Lives Matter, the Me Too Movement, immigration, the break up of unions, Native American tribes reclaiming their inherent rights as sovereign nations, fears around the majority’s ultimate shift into the minority … the list goes on.
All of that is hard to grapple with.
Looking back in history helps me to at least understand why we are the way we are today.
So I ask myself …
Can I tell a story about the making of America to our young in a way that our young and future leaders can look back far enough — so they can see are enough forward — to lead our future country in unity and with freedom intact?
That’s a tall order.
How do I tell this story? How do I make it interesting, entertaining and compelling to high schoolers, college students, the history buffs and the general public as a whole? (And how do I keep it to one hour?)
It took a while, finally …
I thought about what interested me the most … and that was hearing the young peoples stories … seeing their point of view.
I read about a Cherokee elder remembering when he was 9-years-old, how he and his family were rounded up and forced to march a thousand miles along the Trail of Tears.
Excerpt from …
The Story of Samuel Cloud, a boy who turned nine on the Trail of Tears, retold by his great great grandson.
… My mother is coughing now. She looks warn. Her hands and face are burning hot. My aunts and uncles try to take care of me, so she can’t better. I don’t want to leave her alone. I just want to sit with her. I want her to stroke my hair, like she used to do. My aunts try to get me to sleep by them, but at night I creep to her side. She coughs and it wracks her whole body. When she feels me by her side, she opens her blanket and lets me in. I nestle against her feverish body. I can make it another day, I know, because she is here. When I went to sleep last night, my mother was hot and coughing worse than usual. When I woke, she was cold.
I learned about a young coal seller’s son who watched his friends change when they left school to work the factories and mines during the Industrial Revolution era.
… Those sickly little boys we used to meet on fine summer evenings, towards six o’clock on the outskirts of an industrial town. … We would see them, pale-faced, bodies worn out already, a little bowl in their left hand, dragging their feet on the way to a factory. And they were only twelve!
I read an excerpt from a 15-year-old girl’s diary who wrote about the day she and her family dashed across the land in attempts to claim it during a land run.
From the Diary of Laura Brown …
… Suddenly there is a “Flash,” “Boom” from the soldiers’ guns and with a might cheer the crowd was off and away in a cloud of dust, horse-backers, in buggies, wagons, and on foot. And in less time then it takes to tell it, the crowd was over the little rise of ground to the east of us and out of sight and the sound grew fainter and fainter and soon died away in the distance.
Then I heard and account from a woman who remembered being 10-years-old living in the Jim Crow era. Her account horrified me.
From Clara Luper’s writings
We we the only people brought to America in chain. … Back in 1933, I was 10-years old. My brother got really sick so we took him to the closest hospital. That hospital was segregated and they turned us away. My brother, he died.
Each story comes from a young voice so there is an innocence about each recall, but when these stories are woven together … they tell a mighty tale.
I realized then that the story didn’t need to be complicated. The answer to my question became simple.
Now … it’s time to make the film!
CIVIL is a documentary film about the making of America through the eyes of the young.
I hope you enjoy the process of making a film together! I know I will love having you along for the ride.