UMKC to Host Civil Rights Film Series

Image from the film "Freedom Riders" from PBS

Federal grant to university libraries funds film-and-discussion sessions

The University of Missouri-Kansas City will host a series of four acclaimed films about America’s civil rights struggle, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle is an initiative that uses the power of documentary films to encourage community discussion of America’s civil rights history. Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle is made possible through a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of its Bridging Cultures initiative, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

UMKC is one of 473 institutions across the country awarded a set of four films chronicling the history of the civil rights movement. The documentaries, The Abolitionists, Slavery by Another Name, Freedom Riders, and The Loving Story, include dramatic scenes of incidents in the 150-year effort to achieve equal rights for all.  Freedom Riders received an Emmy in 2012, and The Loving Story and The Abolitionists have been nominated for Emmys in 2013. 

UMKC Libraries applied for and won the grant for a series of public showings of the films, combined with scholar-led group discussions. Library officials were supported by faculty from the UMKC School of Education. Discussion leaders at all four events are faculty from the UMKC Black Studies program. The 2014 Civil Rights Film Series is supported by partnerships from various UMKC campus departments; various UMKC students’ organizations; and community organizations/businesses in partnership with the UMKC Office of Community and Public Affairs.

The public events will take place in the iX Theatre in the Miller Nichols Library, 800 E. 51st St., Kansas City, MO. All sessions (and parking) are free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested at the UMKC Libraries events page. Event times, dates and discussion leaders are as follows:

The Abolitionists
Scholar/Discussion Leader: Dr. Clovis E. Semmes
Sunday, Jan. 26, 2-4 p.m.
A small group of moral reformers in the 1830s launched one of the most ambitious social movements imaginable: the immediate emancipation of millions of African Americans who were enslaved. Produced and directed by Rob Rapley.

The Loving Story
Scholar/Discussion Leader: Dr. Adrienne Walker Hoard
Sunday, Feb. 23, 2-4 p.m.
The moving account of Richard and Mildred Loving, who were arrested in 1958 for violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. Their struggle culminated in a landmark Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia (1967.) Directed by Nancy Buirski; produced by Nancy Buirski and Elisabeth Haviland James.

Freedom Riders
Scholar/Discussion Leader: Dr. Veronica Nana Wilson-Tagoe
Sunday, March 30, 2-4 p.m.
The Freedom Rides of 1961 were a pivotal moment in the long Civil Rights struggle that redefined America. This documentary film offers an inside look at the brave band of activists who challenged segregation in the Deep South. Produced and directed by Stanley Nelson.

Slavery by Another Name
Scholar/Discussion Leader: Dr. Jacqueline Wood
Sunday, April 27, 2-4 p.m.
Even as slavery ended in the south after the Civil War, new forms of forced labor kept thousands of African Americans in bondage until the onset of World War II. Produced and directed by Sam Pollard.

“These films and the discussions that will follow provide a unique learning opportunity for our entire community, providing a window into the generations-long struggle to achieve equal rights for all Americans,” said Bonnie Postlethwaite, dean of libraries at UMKC.  “We are pleased to receive a grant from NEH to provide programming around these films, enabling us to convene an important opportunity for the Kansas City community.”

Each of the films was produced with NEH support, and each tells remarkable stories of individuals who challenged the social and legal status quo of deeply rooted institutions, from slavery to segregation. Created Equal programs bring communities together to revisit our shared history and help bridge deep racial and cultural divides in American civic life. Visit for more information. 

About The University of Missouri-Kansas City
The University of Missouri-Kansas City, one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students, and celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2013. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization that promotes excellence in the teaching and learning of American history. Programs include publications, teacher seminars, a national Affiliate School Program, traveling exhibitions, and online materials for teachers, students, and the general public.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities. NEH grants enrich classroom learning, create and preserve knowledge, and bring ideas to life through public television, radio, museum exhibitions, and programs in libraries and other community places.

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