(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Separate, But Equal, a film documenting the history of prosperous middle-class African Americans in Greenville, Miss., in the postwar era, will be screened on Wednesday, October 19 at 7 pm at the Triplex Cinema by the Berkshire International Film Festival’s REEL Friends Film Society. The film was the winner of the 2011 HBO Best Documentary Film and Saatchi and Saatchi Award at a festival in Martha’s Vineyard
Rediscovered photographs that document a virtually ignored and neglected chapter in African-American history – the proud, dignified community of middle-class blacks that existed throughout the South at the dawn of the civil rights movement – form the basis of Separate, But Equal. Henry Clay Anderson, a professional photographer who lived and worked in Greenville, Mississippi, established Anderson Photo Service in Greenville in 1948. Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, he photographed every aspect of his relatively prosperous black community, recording the daily lives of the men and women who built the Greenville schools, churches, and hospitals that served their segregated society. He photographed family gatherings, weddings, funerals, and events at the black high school. He photographed nightclub musicians, itinerant entertainers, and a wide range of professionals at work. His mission had strong political overtones.
The photographs contained in this film are works of art, but they are also historical documents. The film’s writer and director, Shawn Wilson, returned to his hometown to interview Anderson as well as a variety of other members of the Greenville community. Together, these materials create a window into a world that has been overlooked in the aftermath of the civil rights movement – the community of black middle class Southerners who considered themselves first-class Americans despite living in a deeply segregated world.
The photographs have been acquired by the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, and will be on permanant display in 2016. Separate, But Equal is free to REEL Friends and open to the public.
BIFF 2012 will be May 31 – June 3, 2012.