Documentary screening inspires conversation

Gillian Feehan, Campus Life Editor

The Bucknell Institute for Public Policy (BIPP) and the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender (CSREG) sponsored a screening of the documentary “Nashville: We Were Warriors” on Sept. 23 as a part of the “The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act: 50 Years After.” Following the film, Visiting Assistant Professor of History Jennifer Thomson and Visiting Assistant Professor of Education David Ragland facilitated a discussion.

“Nashville: We Were Warriors” tells the story of Reverend James Lawson’s work as an activist in the civil rights movement. In 1960, Lawson began to train Nashville, Tenn. students in the tactics of nonviolence, where students learned to be unresponsive as others taunted and physically abused them. Later, this training was put into action as students participated in lunch counter sit-ins around the city. At first, the students were denied service and ignored, but as students continued to return each day, the public’s reaction became increasingly violent. White people were not arrested for beating the students, but students were arrested for their nonviolent actions.

In addition to the sit-ins, African Americans also started an economic boycott of downtown Nashville stores, and business leaders and students pushed for a solution to the city’s issues. At the end of the film, the mayor of Nashville orders the desegregation of the city.

At the conclusion of the film, Thomson and Ragland posed a few questions to the audience, and the audience participated in a discussion and asked their own questions to each other and the professors. The discussion covered topics such as reactions to the film, the meaning of nonviolence, and the comparison of sit-ins to events today, like in Ferguson.

“To read about the things the nonviolent protesters of the 1960s went through is one thing; to see actual video footage of them is another. As someone who has spent a lot of time reading about this sort of thing, I was still shocked and amazed to see the kind of brutality they suffered, and the stoic way they handled it. It made it feel so real. [It was] truly inspiring, considering they were college kids like us,” Morgan Greenly ’15 said in response to the film.

The film and discussion were the first part in “The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act: 50 Years After” Series. On Sept. 30, Diane Nash will give a talk titled “The Movements of the ’60s: A Legacy for Today,” at 7 p.m. in Trout Auditorium. Nash was chairperson of the student sit-in movement in Nashville, one of the founding members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and a coordinator of the Freedom Rides.

 

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