KNOXVILLE – “The Long March,” an award-winning documentary on the American civil rights movement produced by three graduates of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and overseen by a UT journalism professor, will air on East Tennessee Public Television (ETPtv) at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15, and at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19.
Named for the march of civil right advocates from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., “The Long March” explores the efforts of forgotten leaders; interviews close friends of Martin Luther King Jr.; discovers rural African-American culture lost in the shadow of the movement; and interviews authors, educators, lawmakers and scientists to piece together how the efforts of everyday people in the 1950s and 1960s have affected our lives today.
A culmination of several year’s work, the film was made by Tre Berney, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in journalism and electronic media (JEM); Josh Richard, another 2008 JEM graduate; and Jane Barr, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in political science and Africana studies. Bob Legg, assistant professor of journalism and electronic media, oversaw the project.
The film started as a research project, but evolved over time. Wanting to document the history of the civil rights movement, the students set out to interview people who had been involved. They contacted Andrew Young — friend and ally of Martin Luther King Jr. and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations — and he agreed to be interviewed.
After traveling to Atlanta to talk to Young, the students continued their research and interviews in Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
As their vision of the film began to coalesce, the filmmakers returned to interview Young a second time.
“Our students were so interested, excited and animated when they talked to Andrew Young about this project that he came away very impressed,” Legg said.
After their second conversation with Young, the civil rights leader invited the students to travel with him and several heads of state to Tanzania during the summer of 2008 for a summit sponsored by the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation. The New York City-based organization works to reunite the worldwide African diaspora to help speed economic and social growth and reform to benefit the marginalized peoples of the world, especially those in Africa.
The students got funding for the trip from a variety of sources, including Ready for the World.
Legg said the trip was eye-opening for the students, who had just started to see some of the inequalities — education, social, political and economic — that still exist in America.
“In one 12-hour period, we visited a Masai village school with no power, water collected from the roof and painted adobe walls that served as blackboards; took an unexpected shortcut through the city dump and saw children living in and on the piles of refuse; and finished the day with a formal state dinner,” he said.
“The disparity between the haves and have-nots is monumental. You realize that even the homeless in America have access to more — more food, more medical care and a coat when it’s cold –than the average African.”
The filmmakers also discovered how important Tennessee was to the Civil Rights Movement. A vital source for their project was the renowned Highlander Research and Education Center, located near New Market.
The students said they had never heard about the center before beginning the documentary process, Legg said, and they were very surprised to learn that Martin Luther King Jr., along with many other influential people, had attended Highlander’s school of empowerment.
“The Long March” has won a variety of accolades: a spot in the DocumFest International Documentary Festival in Romania; an Award of Merit from the Accolade International Competition; and an Award of Excellence in the Broadcast Education Association’s annual International Festival of Media Arts.
As a result of “The Long March” project, the group also was asked by the UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy to make a short film about Tent City for the Voting Rights Symposium held in the March.
Now, Legg has been asked by the U.S. Department of Defense to create a series of documentaries to raise awareness of the long-standing land mine problem plaguing Angola. He plans to travel to that southern African nation with a group of students in the spring.
C O N T A C T :
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, email@example.com)