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"Eyes on the Prize" on DVD, in PBS Replay

By admin Published: March 2, 2010

The landmark documentary, from the late Henry Hampton, arrives in April. It is a great history of the Civil Rights movement in the '50s and '60s, full of evocative archival footage. I have carried around old tapes of it for years; there is also a fine sequel. I look forward to seeing it again. Full announcement after the jump.

From the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the influential Nashville sit-in to the March on Washington, the Civil Rights movement hit its peak from 1954-1965. PBS puts the spotlight on this groundbreaking period in American history with the award-winning, six-hour documentary Eyes on the Prize. Scheduled to broadcast on PBS during the first three Thursdays in April and premiering on DVD April 6, Eyes on the Prize showcases gripping first-hand stories and reveals how ordinary people can work together to bring about great change. [Suggested retail price is $69.99.]

Winner of six Emmy Awards, the George Foster Peabody Award, and the top DuPont-Columbia Award for excellence in broadcast journalism, Eyes on the Prize tells the story of the people – young and old, male and female, northern and southern – who, compelled by a meeting of conscience and circumstance, worked to eradicate a world where whites and blacks could not go to the same school, ride in the same section of the bus, vote in the same election, or participate equally in society. It was a world in which peaceful demonstrators were met with resistance and brutality -- in short, a reality that is now nearly incomprehensible to many young Americans.

Produced by Blackside and narrated by political leader and civil rights activist, Julian Bond, the series recounts the extraordinary actions which launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life, and embodied a struggle whose reverberations continue to be felt today. The driving force behind Eyes on the Prize was Blackside’s founder, Henry Hampton, who executive produced the series and is widely known as one of the most influential documentary filmmakers in the 20th century.

The New York Times eloquently sums up the profound value and appeal of this film series when it states: “Eyes on the Prize is a demonstration that even the greatest challenges can be overcome. It’s a national treasure, important for all the reasons that history is important.”

The Chicago Sun-Times says, “This is not just superb television; it is a journey into the soul of America,” while The New York Daily News credits the series as “stirring, informative, thoroughly researched…[and] eloquently narrated.”

"We are elated that this landmark series will once again be available across the country, reaching millions of Americans — many of whom may never have seen the original series,” says Judi Hampton, president, Blackside, and sister of the late Henry Hampton. “We hope that the DVD release and the PBS re-broadcast will spark a national dialogue about this important topic.”

The documentary features the following episodes:

Disc 1
Awakenings (1954-1956)
Rare reflections open the door to understanding America’s struggle for equality. Curtis Jones (Emmett Till’s cousin), Coretta Scott King, and other key witnesses describe the extraordinary role ordinary people played in shaping the civil rights movement. Features in this episode: Mose Wright stands up to racial injustice. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. spark a boycott to desegregate city buses. King and other ministers form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to expand the movement for civil and human rights.

Fighting Back (1957-1962)
Unforgettable images of the battle lines drawn in the South come to life through the eyes of those who were on the frontlines—Ernest Green who helped integrate Little Rock’s Central High School, University of Mississippi registrar Robert Ellis, and U.S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell. See states’ rights loyalists and federal authorities collide in the struggle to integrate Central High School and James Meredith and NAACP lawyers face mob violence integrating the University of Mississippi.

Disc 2
Ain’t Scared of Your Jails (1960-1961)
Young people unite to overcome racial segregation. Exclusive interviews with student activists, community leaders, and government officials reveal the remarkable human drama behind the lunch counter sit-ins, nationwide boycotts, and formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Black and white freedom riders, organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), travel together at great risk to protest bus segregation and challenge the government to protect them from mobs. And strong black support aids in President Kennedy’s election.

No Easy Walk (1961-1963)
Discover the power of mass demonstrations with the emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr. as the most visible leader of the civil rights movement. Recollections of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members help chronicle the anti-segregation campaign in Albany, the violent reaction to the Children’s March in Birmingham, AL, the triumphant March on Washington, D.C., and President Kennedy’s proposal of the Civil Rights Act.

Disc 3
Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964)
Mississippi becomes a testing ground of constitutional principles as activists focus on the right to vote. Key participants recount the state’s resistance to the movement and the equally strong determination of black and white organizers to bring blacks into the political process. NAACP leader Medgar Evers is assassinated and three civil rights workers are murdered, while amidst this horror, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed.

Bridge to Freedom (1965)
Eyewitness accounts by the Rev. C.T. Vivian, Stokley Carmichael, and George Wallace illuminate the events of 1965, focusing on a decade of lessons learned and the role of television in the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr. receives the Nobel Peace Prize and TV images of troopers gassing demonstrators on a Selma bridge fill living rooms. Twenty-five thousand people march from Selma to Montgomery, helping to ensure the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Coinciding with the broadcast and DVD debut, the official companion book, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 by Juan Williams is available nationwide by Penguin Books (paperback, $20).

To order a copy of Eyes on the Prize, please call (800) PLAY-PBS or visit

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