X Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years(1986)

X Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years(1986) No one today can truly feel the Civil Rights experience between 1954 and 1965 without viewing this exceptional PBS Eyes on the Prize series: Awakenings (1954-1956); Fighting Back (1957-1962); Ain’t Scared of Your Jails (1960-1961); No Easy Walk (1962-1964); Mississippi: Is This America?; and Bridge to Freedom (1965). It is easy to forget, after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the political equivocation, the bloody confrontations, and the hundreds of dead and wounded that marked the subsequent decade. The courage of the Freedom Fighters, the Nobel Prize-winning efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr., the dogs and water hoses directed against helpless children, Sheriff Bull Clark—these all are part of this wrenching social and human drama.
    The general go-slow civil rights attitude of the Eisenhower administration is better known than the ‘this is not the time’ position that President Kennedy favored until his final months. For those of us who witnessed these events two generations ago, these films are vivid reminders of when racial discrimination often was a integral part of American life. This first Eyes on the Prize series reaches a climax with the two Civil Rights laws passed under President Lyndon Johnson. The summer of 1965 marked the high water mark in King’s non-violent civil rights crusade. The summer 1965 riots in Watts triggered racial violence that ultimately spread to over 140 cities and, during which, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
    An essential companion to this Eyes on the Prize series (Part II takes the story up to 1990) is The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and First-Hand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle, 1954-1990 (1991).

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