Created Equal: America's Civil Rights StruggleTo mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington, William Paterson University will screen four documentaries with new footage illustrating the history of civil rights in America during the 2013-2014 academic year. The spring series films will be screened on March 10 and April 3. Each will feature discussion led by a University professor.

The Loving Story will be screened on Monday, March 10. This film details the story of a married couple and a fight that led all the way to the Supreme Court, resulting in the landmark opinion Loving v Virginia (1967). When Mildred and Richard Loving were arrested in July 1958, in Virginia, for violating a state law that banned marriage between people of different races, such laws had been on the books in most states since the seventeenth century. But the Lovings never expected to be woken up in their bedroom in the middle of the night and arrested. The documentary brings to life the Lovings' marriage and the legal battle that followed through little-known filmed interviews and photographs shot for Life magazine. The discussion will be led by Prof. Kathleen Korgen, Department of Sociology, William Paterson University. An expert on race relations and racial identity, Prof. Korgen is the author of Multiracial Identity and Social Class (2010), Crossing the Racial Divide: Close Friendships between Black and White Americans (2002), and From Black to Biracial: Transforming Racial Identity among Americans (1998).

Freedom Riders will be screened on Thursday, April 3. Attracting a diverse group of volunteers - black and white, young and old, male and female, secular and religious, northern and southern - the Freedom Rides of 1961 took the civil rights struggle out of the courtroom and onto the streets of the Jim Crow South. Freedom Riders tells the terrifying, moving, and suspenseful story of a time when white and black volunteers riding a bus into the Deep South risked being jailed, beaten, or killed, as white local and state authorities ignored or encouraged violent attacks. The film includes previously unseen amateur 8-mm footage of the burning bus on which some Freedom Riders were temporarily trapped, taken by a local twelve-year-old and held as evidence since 1961 by the FBI. The discussion will be led by Prof. Robert Chase, Department of History, State University of New York, Stony Brook. An expert on the history of racial politics, social movements, and civil rights, Prof. Robert Chase is the author of the forthcoming Civil Rights on the Cell Block: The Prisoners’ Rights Movement and the Construction of the Carceral State, 1945–1990, which reexamines the southern prisoners’ rights movement of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s and the subsequent construction of what many historians now call the era of mass incarceration and the “New Jim Crow.”

Both programs are free and open to the public. Two sessions will be held each day. The first will be held in the Cheng Library Auditorium from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., and a second session will be held from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the Paterson Public Library Assembly Room.

Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that uses the power of documentary films to encourage community discussion of America’s civil rights history. NEH has partnered with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to develop programmatic and support materials for the sites.

For additional information, contact Richard Kearney at 973.720.2165.