As the nation marks historic anniversaries of the Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington, Created Equal brings together four nationally-acclaimed documentary films on the long Civil Rights movement.
The NEH Created Equal project uses the power of documentary films to encourage public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in America. The four films that are part of this project tell the remarkable stories of individuals who challenged the social and legal status quo, from slavery to segregation.
Created Equal is part of the Bridging Cultures initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities, produced in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Lonnie Bunch, founding director of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture, explains why the Created Equal films matter to all Americans.
In 1964, less than 7% of Mississippi’s African Americans were registered to vote. In many rural counties, African Americans made up the majority of the population and the segregationist white establishment was prepared to use any means necessary to keep them away from the polls and out of elected office. For years, local civil rights workers had tried to increase voter registration amongst African Americans. Those who wished to vote had to face the local registrar, an all-powerful white functionary who would often publish their names in the paper and pass the word on to their employers and bankers. And if loss of jobs and the threat of violence wasn’t enough to dissuade them, the complex and arcane testing policies were certain to keep them off the rolls.