Civil Rights on Film: Meet a Black Healthcare Hero, Glimpse Segregated Life, and Get to Know a Transgender Woman in 1960s L.A.
On March 14, Film Love continues its retrospective at the High Museum of Art with the screening Film Love at the High: Civil Rights on Film. We’ll watch the historic films All My Babies, Movies of Local People: Kannapolis, and Behind Every Good Man — inspired responses to the challenge of representing segregation and the struggle for civil rights onscreen.
A Hero of Black Healthcare
Produced in 1953 by the Georgia Department of Health as a training film for midwives, All My Babies documents the extraordinary working life of Mary Francis Hill Coley, an African American midwife and black healthcare advocate from Albany, Georgia.
In the film, “Miss Mary” assists two different families with their children’s births, and the contrast between these two families is the window through which the film subtly addresses inequality in the rural South during the Jim Crow era. Punctuating the dramatizations of health procedures for women is a remarkable fifteen-minute childbirth sequence.
Although All My Babies was originally only shown to health professionals at private screenings, it was quickly recognized as much more than a training video. It was both an aesthetic and social landmark in documentary film — a compassionate portrait of a healer in a difficult time and place. The film was selected for the prestigious National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.
A Slice of Segregated Life in North Carolina
During the Great Depression, North Carolina photographer H. Lee Waters traveled from town to town with his 16mm camera. He took pictures of people on the streets, and then projected the images at local movie theaters, allowing people the thrill of seeing themselves on the big screen.
His film Movies of Local People: Kannapolis is an absorbing and moving portrait of people in both the white and black neighborhoods of a segregated city in North Carolina.
Waters’s films are now an important historical record of the Southern locales where he shot. The film was selected for the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.
LGBT Life in 1960s L.A.
Showing us the daily life of a black transgender woman, Nikolai Ursin’s 1965 UCLA student film Behind Every Good Man is a rare pre-Stonewall document of black LGBT life. Like All My Babies, this breezy, compassionate film walks a complex line between documentary and dramatization in its representation of emerging identities and Civil Rights movements.
Civil Rights on Film is a Film Love event. The Film Love series provides access to great but rarely screened films, particularly important works unavailable on consumer video. Through public screenings and events, Film Love preserves the communal viewing experience, provides space for the discussion of film as art, explores diverse forms of projection and viewing, and illuminates connections between the moving image and other art forms. Film Love is curated by Andy Ditzler.