I fled the South and lived 40 years out West and found that many people were skeptical about my stories of the young ministers who challenged my racial cultural brainwashing. When I moved back to the South several years ago, I realized that I lived in an area surrounded by Presbyterian ministers who had “fought the good fight” during the Civil Rights Era. Most of them had never told their stories in public and in many cases their grown children did not even know what they had been through. These men were modest and unpretentious about their strong stands during those hard times.
This is a story told from my perspective as white southerner who grew up in a racist family and culture with limited exposure to the suffering and inequalities around me. What started out as a small oral history project interviewing the ministers I knew as a teenager, grew into this feature length documentary. We traveled extensively throughout the Southeast, interviewing over 60 ministers and family members, amassing over 100 hours of material.
As a psychologist I’ve always been interested in early memories and how they impact later behavior. So I asked these men about when they realized as children that what they were being taught about race was wrong.
The music in the film consists of old Presbyterian Scottish and English hymns mostly from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries – the music that the ministers and I grew up with. These traditional hymns provide historical context, setting the mood and giving the film emotional depth.
It was a disgraceful chapter in (Southern) Presbyterian Church history. This movie is a document, however, of those white ministers who tried to do the right thing when the right thing was difficult and dangerous to do. Their modeling changed me and other teenagers who were watching.