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WSIU, African American Museum host film screening

  • Pictured are, from left, Kendale Watson (Xavier University of Louisiana), Cheron Perkins (Xavier University of Louisiana), Jasmine Bryant (Spelman College) and Stephanie Wooten (Howard University) as they listen to moderator Dr. Pamela Smoot (not pictured) during a panel discussion after a screening of the film "Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities" on Thursday at University Mall. The four all attended historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

    Pictured are, from left, Kendale Watson (Xavier University of Louisiana), Cheron Perkins (Xavier University of Louisiana), Jasmine Bryant (Spelman College) and Stephanie Wooten (Howard University) as they listen to moderator Dr. Pamela Smoot (not pictured) during a panel discussion after a screening of the film "Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities" on Thursday at University Mall. The four all attended historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
    Pete Spitler/Du Quoin Call

 
By Pete Spitler
pspitler@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 2/2/2018 6:19 PM

February is Black History Month and WSIU and the African American Museum hosted a free screening of "Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities" on Thursday inside University Mall.

The film helps tell the story of the rise of African-American education from the dawn of the Civil War to present day, while highlighting the struggles of advancing civil rights and the influence of prominent black leaders like Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois.

In the days of slavery, white plantation owners would intentionally keep slaves from becoming educated and acquiring knowledge. The film explains that when enslaved people saw white people reading, they referred to it as "talking to books."

After the war broke out in 1861, African-Americans fled their plantations to get to relative freedom behind Union lines, where they were regarded as contraband.

The popular belief at the time was if African-Americans could get knowledge, other things will follow.

After emancipation, formerly enslaved people opened schools, where they "taught what they knew." If they only had a sixth grade education, they only taught to sixth grade.

The film explores the difference in education experiences between white and black children, with the latter having to walk to attend schools that often did not have bathroom facilities.

A movement soon started to train African-Americans to actually teach and by the late 1800s, there were 86 black colleges in the South. One of those was Hampton Normal and Agriculture Institute (now Hampton University), which Washington - who was born a slave - attended after working his way to admission.

Washington later became the first leader of Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1881 and led the institution for more than 30 years.

In later years, Du Bois believed that "with education you gain independence and with independence you gain freedom" and sought to shift curriculum from industrial education to a higher pursuit for black people.

Many African-Americans served during World War I, but were abused and beaten upon their return to the United States. The "Red Summer" of 1919 was marked by race riots in 28 cities as the rapid demobilization of the military and the removal of price controls led to job competition between whites and blacks.

The film continues through the "Golden Age" of the 1930s and 1940s, and into the sit-down protests and demonstrations of the 1960s and 1970s. One sit-in protest in 1960 at Rich's Department Store in Atlanta, Georgia, caused $10 million in losses during the Christmas holiday.

In 1972, two 20-year-old African-American students, Leonard Brown and Denver Smith, were shot and killed by an East Baton Rouge deputy sheriff during a student demonstration on the Southern University campus.

They posthumously received their degrees last year - 45 years later. No one was ever charged with their deaths.

Today, there are 100 historically black colleges across the U.S. and Thursday's event included a panel discussion with four students who attended historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The 90-minute film will air in its entirety on WSIU on Monday, February 19 at 8 p.m.