Anne Braden: Southern Patriot
Documentary by RTF professor sheds light on civil rights leader
Anne Lewis, a senior lecturer in the College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin, has a new documentary on civil rights pioneer Anne Braden scheduled for an initial screening at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 18 at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. The documentary filmmaker in the Department of Radio-Television-Film is showing her newest project titled, "Anne Braden: Southern Patriot" to explore the ideas and life of Anne Braden.
Anne Lewis, senior lecturer
in the Department of
Co-produced with filmmaker Mimi Pickering, the film profiles Braden, a middle-class white woman and native of Alabama who shunned her racial and class privilege in the Jim Crow South to combat racism in a lifelong struggle for social justice from the 1940s until her death in 2006."Anne was an organizer, a journalist, a strategist, a grassroots leader," said Lewis. "Her importance was that of participation, reflection, and mentorship."
Braden spent her career championing civil rights, organizing movements, calling for protests, and even campaigning for political candidates such as Jesse Jackson.
Close to other iconic members of the civil rights cause including Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Ella Baker, Braden is known as a white leader named in King's letter from the Birmingham jail and described by King as eloquent and prophetic. Braden argued that when the ideology of white supremacy is challenged, the "foundation stone shakes."
"She, like Dr. King, believed that our society needs to be totally restructured – Braden would see us, and herself, as privileged because of the color of our skin," said Lewis. "On the other hand, she is a great optimist who believes in both societal and personal transformation. In the end, we have a choice to join the unfinished revolution that is the civil rights movement or remain in what she calls the 'prison of being born in a racist and classist society.'"
Braden, her husband Carl and other activists were tried and found guilty on criminal charges for "sedition" after purchasing a house for a black family in a white neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky in 1954. After they were fired from their jobs, the Bradens were hired to edit The Southern Patriot newspaper, which covered struggles throughout the South until the mid 1970s.
While the activist died six years ago, her stories spanning labor disputes, the fear wielded by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and her work with other leaders of social justice live on through the documentary.
Lewis began work on the project in 2003 and said that UT staff, faculty, alumni and current students all helped her put it together. RTF staff Susanne Kraft, Jeremy Gruy and Keefe Boerner assisted in advanced film techniques and graduate student Deepak Chetty showed Lewis how to turn photocopies of newspaper articles into clean copy.
Former student Lee Tran put Lewis in touch with Pete Smith, photographer at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, who helped Lewis create authentic pictures of the Southern Patriot newspapers she checked out from the Perry Castañeda Library on campus.
"The department as a whole was extremely helpful," said Lewis.
In the end, Lewis said she just wants to tell the truth about Braden with as much passion and clarity possible.
"Her analysis was profound – based on class, through the lens of civil rights and gender," said Lewis. "The lesson I take from Braden is that it's possible to lead a good life full of politics, art, and family and friends."
The Austin Film Society will present the film followed by a question and answer session with Lewis. Tickets are $5 for Austin Film Society members and students with a valid ID and $8 for general admission. Purchases are available online at www.austinfilm.org or at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar the night of July 18.
Laura Byerley, (512) 471-2182