'The Albany Movement': Georgia HBCU to Produce Documentary on Town's Role in the Civil Rights Movement

Article excerpt

Before Birmingham and Selma, Ala., became benchmarks for change during the Civil Rights Movement, the tiny town of Albany, Ga., was a testing ground for desegregation in the early 1960s.

Some organizers considered the movement a failure because Albany remained segregated for years. The laws may not have changed immediately, but many residents who were involved in the movement in the southwestern Georgia town have a different perspective. A group of mass communication students at Albany State University are producing a documentary, "The Albany Movement" to highlight successes and tell the hidden stories behind the town's legacy.

"What the media did is make Martin Luther King look like Superman. He'll get all the credit but there were a lot of key role players. Albany was a stepping stone to success," says Terrence Turner, a senior at Albany State.

More than a dozen students in an upper-level mass media seminar class are working on the documentary. They recently received a $5,000 grant from the National Black Programming Consortium as part of a contest with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Blackside, the producer of the lauded the 1980s PBS documentary "Eyes on the Prize," that chronicled the Civil Rights Movement in a 14-hour series.

Fifteen historically Black colleges received grants to create original student media-based projects that explore aspects of the Civil Rights Movement. The 10-minute pieces will run online in 2007 with the possibility of being picked up by PBS affiliate stations. The competition coincides with the 20th anniversary of the airing of "Eyes on the Prize."

"We wanted to engage students in these issues ... so many younger African-American students were unaware [of "Eyes on the Prize"]," says Brad Burford, outreach coordinator for the NBPC. "Black colleges had a large role in the Civil Rights Movement, which prompted the competition."

At Albany State, students are producing the content and filming for the documentary, which will be 30 minutes in its final product but whittled down to 10 minutes for the NBPC Web site. The grant will pay for equipment.

For many of the Albany State students, interviewing people and researching a movement from more than 40 years ago gave them a connection to a previous generation in a way that television and history books had not. …