Anne Braden: Southern Patriot provides a moving, in-depth biography of an organizer and journalist who for a remarkable 60 years participated in the most significant movements for racial and economic justice in this country’s most conservative region - the South. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. praised her steadfast activism in support of civil rights and civil liberties, but she was threatened, attacked, indicted and labeled a “Communist agitator” and “race traitor” by white supremacists. Her conservative background gave her special insight into white racism, why it poses such a great obstacle to social change in this country and what progressive white people can do to end it.
Braden’s work as a journalist in Alabama and Kentucky in the late 1940’s along with her husband, Carl's, activities with unions and the small yet energetic left-wing community in the South, made her sensitive to the social inequalities all around her. In 1951, Braden joined a delegation of white women who traveled to Mississippi to prevent the execution of Willie McGee, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Her experience in that case and others led her to write “A Letter to White Southern Women” a groundbreaking – and controversial - statement on the intersection of race and gender. (Available in full as a .pdf on the DVD and here).
The 1954 landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ignited a fierce backlash and mob hysteria among Southern segregationists. That same year, the Bradens purchased a house in a “white” neighborhood in suburban Louisville on behalf of an African American couple. Racists bombed the house and the Bradens along with other supporters were charged with being responsible and indicted for fomenting discord among the races! Carl Braden was convicted and sentenced to 15 years but, the Supreme Court nullified state sedition laws. The Bradens waged a successful campaign to have all the indictments thrown out.
Undaunted, the Bradens joined the staff of the Southern Conference Educational Fund (SCEF). Anne edited their publication, The Southern Patriot, which became known as the most reliable, up-to-date source on the unfolding Civil Rights struggle. In the late 1960's, the Bradens and SCEF answered the call by some black activists to build progressive movements among poor and working class whites by supporting the GROW Project in Alabama and the Southern Mountain Project in Appalachia (for which the Bradens were again charged with sedition in 1967).
Anne Braden persevered after Carl's death in 1975, fighting an anti-busing campaign and police brutality in Louisville, organizing against a resurgent KKK, leading Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign in Kentucky and challenging the notion of “reverse discrimination”. She convincingly countered that whenever black people won gains, poor and working class whites benefitted as well.
Cornel West, Bernice Johnson Reagon, Rev. C.T. Vivian, Angela Davis and biographer, Catherine Fosl discuss the far reaching implications of Anne Braden's life of activism for today. This film will enlighten students in American History, Women's Studies, and Social Movements courses as well as Diversity Training programs.
Also available is the transcript of a dialogue between Civil Rights Movement veteran activist and strategist Jack O’Dell and the film's director Anne Lewis . O’Dell was a leading advisor to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., an editor of the progressive magazine Freedomways, and a colleague of racial and economic justice activist Anne Braden. The conversation took place in Vancouver on May 7, 2013 at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival after the screening of Anne Braden: Southern Patriot and focused on the lessons of the Civil Rights Movement for today’s social change activists.
Winner of the 2013 Kentucky History Award for Documentary Film from the Kentucky Historical Society.
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“An inspiring tribute to an extraordinary woman and an even more compelling set of ideas: namely, that we all have an important role to play in the struggle for racial and economic justice and that there is more than one way to live in white skin. Because few Americans have heard her story since it challenges some of America's most cherished myths, this film is a must-see."
-Tim Wise, author, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son
“A magnificent and faithful portrait of the Anne Braden I knew: courageous, militantly anti-racist, and radical to the core. The filmmakers compel us come to terms with her critical insight: that racism is American democracy’s cancer, and unless we destroy it we can never achieve our own or our nation's full humanity. Anne Braden changed my life; this film will change yours.“
-Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
“A gem of a film, accented by freedom fighters who carved a path through a traumatized, violent, racist South, to make way for one of the largest and most effective nonviolent movements for social change the world has ever seen.”
“Provides a compelling portrait of one woman's enduring commitment to overcoming white supremacy."