Freedom Song: Interviews from Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965


1Some of the interviews were originally conducted for America, They Loved You Madly, a precursor to Eyes on the Prize. For more on America, They Loved You Madly, see Part II of this exhibit, Eyes on the Prize: Making Television History.

2In Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s, executive producer of the series Henry Hampton suggests that he always intended to produce the second chapter of Eyes on the Prize: “Because of the difficulty of raising funds, we had to divide this project into two phases,” he writes (xii). In Chapter Four of the online exhibit on the making of the series, however, Rachel L. Martin suggests that the impetus for Eyes II came from the success of the series’ first installment. See Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer with Sarah Flynn, Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s (New York: Bantam, 1990) and Rachel L. Martin, “Making Eyes on the Prize: In the Public Eye,” in Making Eyes on the Prize: An Oral History, accessed May 24, 2020,

3Clayborne Carson; quoted in Else, True South: Henry Hampton and *Eyes on the Prize, The Landmark Television Series That Reframed the Civil Rights Movement* (New York: Viking, 2017), 94.

4Jon Else discusses other filmmakers’ failure to produce a documentary history of the movement and Henry Hampton’s unique vision for the project in True South, 58-61.

5Fox Butterfield, “Black Film Makers Retrace the Civil-Rights Struggle,” New York Times, January 26, 1986,

6Nadia Ghasedi discusses the process of preserving and digitizing the Eyes interviews in “Making Virginia Durr Less Blue: Preserving Eyes on the Prize,” Black Camera 5, no. 2 (Spring 2014), 204-12.

7Although Eyes on the Prize was a popular movement anthem, it predates the classical Civil Rights era. The modern version is an adaptation of an old spiritual.

8For a discussion of efforts on the right to discredit policies like affirmative action as antithetical to the southern civil rights movement generally and the principles of Martin Luther King, Jr. specifically, see Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2015) and Roopali Mukherjee, The Racial Order of Things: Cultural Imaginaries of the Post-Soul Era (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006).

9In some interviews, the subject is stopped by the interviewer when discussion turns to the present-day. Some subjects compare the struggle in the South in the 1950s and ’60s with the fight against apartheid in South Africa; however, such commentary was never used in the series.

10Clayborne Carson; quoted in Else, True South, 94.

11Henry Hampton, "Background," Box 3, Folder EOP I: Early Funding Folder, Henry Hampton Collection, Film and Media Archive, Washington University in St. Louise (hereafter referred to as "Henry Hampton Collection").

12Most discussions of this project refer to it by the title America, They Loved You Madly, including a poster for the program reproduced at In True South, however, Else calls it America, We Loved You Madly. In Freedom Song, we use the former title.

13Hampton; quoted in Else, True South, 1.

14Hampton; quoted in Else, True South, 32.

15Else, True South, 32, 39–40.

16Else, True South, 59. Later, Hampton would cite the success of the miniseries Vietnam: A Television History (1983) as a precedent for Eyes on the Prize. Interviews conducted for that series can be found at

17Else, True South, 73.

18Else, True South, 77.

19Letter from Judy Richardson to Julian Bond, March 10, 1980, Box, Folder EOP1 Memos, Henry Hampton Collection.

20Memo from Steve Fayer, “Re: Eyes on the Prize/Analysis,” May 16, 1981, Box 3, Folder EOP1 Memos, Henry Hampton Collection.

21Else, True South, 99.

22Else, True South, 98.

23Martin, Chapter 2, “Making Eyes on the Prize: Telling the Story,” in Making *Eyes on the Prize: An Oral History*.

24In 1987, Carson, Garrow, Harding, and Clark Hine edited Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, a Reader and Guide. The anthology includes speeches, primary documents, and first-hand accounts of the long civil rights movement, from the 1950s to the 1990s.

25Else, True South, 97.

26Jessie McKinley, “Henry Hampton Dies at 58; Produced ‘Eyes on the Prize,’” New York Times, November 24, 1998,

27Crossley; quoted in Martin, Chapter 4, “Making Eyes on the Prize: In the Public Eye,” in Making Eyes on the Prize: An Oral History.

28Rabin; quoted in Martin, Chapter 4, “Making Eyes on the Prize: In the Public Eye,” in Making Eyes on the Prize: An Oral History.

29Jacqueline Dowd Hall, "The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past," Journal of American History 91, no. 4 (March 2005): 1234,

30Else, True South, 94.

31Carson; quoted in Else, True South, 107.

32Jon Else notes that "Henry and Steve [Fayer] established early on that they would construct each episode not around abstract themes, but around the emotional surge of one or two big campaigns…” He continues, “This was, after all, prime-time television. There would, for instance, be no filmed exegesis on all the philosophies, strategies, and tactics of nonviolence on the first Freedom Ride, but there would be a filmed story about the practice of nonviolence on the first Freedom Ride, in 1961.” Else, True South, 109. Eyes I is a history of the civil rights movement, but it is also a work of narrative documentary filmmaking. Although the series is richly detailed, when the details threatened narrative cohesion, the Blackside crew privileged storytelling over comprehensiveness.

33Hall, “The Long Civil Rights Movement,” 1234.

34Eric Arneson, “Reconsidering the Long Civil Rights Movement,” Historically Speaking 10, no. 2 (April 2009), 31.

35Some historians have pushed back against this argument. For a different perspective on civil rights periodization, see Sundiata Keita Cha-Jua and Clarence Lang, "The 'Long Movement' as Vampire: Temporal and Spatial Fallacies in Recent Black Freedom Studies," Journal of African American History 92, no. 2 (2007): 265-88,

36Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s, comp. by Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer with Sarah Flynn (New York: Bantam Books, 1990).

37Tom Hayden interviewed by Orlando Bagwell for Eyes I.

38Matthew D. Lassiter and Joseph Crespino, eds., The Myth of Southern Exceptionalism (Oxford: Oxofrd University Press, 2010), 14.

39Clarence Lang, "Locating the Civil Rights Movement: An Essay on the Deep South, Midwest, and Border South in Black Freedom Studies," Journal of Social History 47, no. 2 (Winter 2013): 371-400,

40Whereas Eyes I focuses on the southern civil rights movement, Eyes II explores the continuation of the struggle in many of the nation’s cities, from Los Angeles to Boston.

41The history of the outside agitators trope is discussed in Jacey Fortin's "The Long History of the 'Outside Agitator,'" New York Times, June 8, 2020,

42Else, True South, 96.

43According to Else, the Eyes I crew rigorously fact-checked all claims made by interview subjects. In the process, they discovered that some of their most riveting stories were simply not true. Else, True South, 102-03. The fact-checking process is also addressed in Chapter Three of Martin’s oral history exhibit on the series’ production, Making Eyes on the Prize: An Oral History.

44Else, True South, 116.

45The biographical details in this section were taken from several sources, most notably, the interviewee biographies section of Washington University’s exhibit Eyes on the Prize Interviews: The Complete Series, accessed June 6, 2020,

46John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1995).

47This is discussed in Leonard’s biography on Washington University’s Digital Gateway exhibit, Eyes on the Prize Interviews: The Complete Series, accessed June 6, 2020,

48Else, True South, 161.

49Jackson’s killing and the Selma to Montgomery march are addressed in episode eight of Eyes on the Prize, “Bridge to Freedom: 1965.”

50The details of what transpired between Emmett Till and Carolyn Bryant in the Bryants’ convenience store have been debated for decades. For a recent account presenting evidence that Carolyn Bryant lied about her encounter with Till, see Timothy B. Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017).

51Coretta Scott King; quoted in Jeanne Theoharris, “Coretta Scott King and the Civil Rights Movement’s Hidden Women,” The Atlantic Presents: King, February, 2018, King reportedly told journalist Barbara Reynolds, “It was not just a few leaders — it was women ... who really put their mark on history.” Coretta Scott King; quoted in Alia E. Dastagir, “The Unsung Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement Are Women You’ve Probably Never Heard Of,” Montgomery Advertiser, February 11, 2018,

52Sheyann Webb and Rachel West Nelson, as told to Frank Sikora, Selma, Lord, Selma: Girlhood Memories of the Civil-Rights Days (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1980); Charles Burnett, dir., Cynthia Whitcomb, scr., Christopher Seitz, prod., Selma, Lord, Selma (Esparza / Katz Productions; Walt Disney Television, 1999).

53This kind of racist logic is addressed briefly in “Awakenings.” The episode includes a discussion of white supremacy as a system of rules enforceable by violence. One of these rules was the prohibition against Black men looking “too closely” at white women. Later, the episode presents footage of a Klansman warning that integration will lead inexorably to the creation of a “mongrel class of people” and that “both races will be destroyed in such a movement.”

54Charles M. Blow wrote about this history and how it continues today after a white woman threatened to call the police on a Black man birdwatching in Central Park in 2020. Charles M. Blow, "How White Women Use Themselves as Instruments of Terror," New York Times, May 27, 2020,

55Timothy B. Tyson, Radio Free Dixie: Robert Williams and the Roots of Black Power (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2001).

56For more on this history, see Danielle L. McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street: Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to Black Power (New York: Knopf, 2010).

57For a detailed discussion of nonviolence, see Mark Kurlansky, Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea (2006; repr., New York: Modern Library, 2008). For information on nonviolence as practiced by Martin Luther King, Jr., see the article” Nonviolence” on the American Experience website, accessed May 25, 2020,

58Nearly two decades before the 1961 Freedom Rides, Rustin wrote an essay titled, “Nonviolence vs. Jim Crow,” in which he discusses his nonviolent resistance to segregation on a bus ride from Louisville, Kentucky, to Nashville, Tennessee. The essay, originally published in the July 1942 issue of Fellowship, is available on the Civil Rights Teaching website, accessed June 6, 2020,

59Some of the biographical information on the Freedom Riders in this section is derived from the appendix to the book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) by Raymond Arsenault. The appendix can be accessed through the book’s companion website,

60Else writes that the violence of the civil rights fight in apartheid South Africa illustrated for Hampton the strengths of American democracy: “On television we watched the brutal dramas in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and their townships as a ghoulish inverse of the American story, cautionary tales of what could happen to freedom fighters under a fiercely repressive regime in the absence of constitutional protection by their federal government.” Else, True South, 99.

61The American flag featured prominently in the treatment drafted by Hampton and Steve Fayer for America, They Loved You Madly as well. See Else, True South, 64.

62Eyes I also ends with the Watts riots, laying the groundwork for Eyes II’s focus on the civil rights struggle in the nation’s cities.

63Douglas Martin, "Nicholas Katzenbach, 90, Dies; Policy Maker at '60s Turning Points," New York Times, May 9, 2012,

64Derrick A. Bell, Jr., “Brown v. Board of Education and the Interest-Convergence Dilemma,” Harvard Law Review 93, no. 3 (Jan. 1980): 518–33,; Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011).

65Many scholars have explored the civil rights movement’s relationship to the media. See, for example, Sasha Torres, “In a Crisis We Must Have a Sense of Drama: Civil Rights and Televisual Form,” in Black, White, and In-Color: Television and Black Civil Rights (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 13-35. For the authoritative work on the civil rights movement and the press, see Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, The Race Beat: The Press, the Race Beat, and the Awakening of a Nation (New York: Vintage, 2006).

66Gene Roberts and Hank Kilbanoff, The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of the Nation (New York: Vintage, 2006). Martin Berger is less sanguine than Roberts and Kilbanoff in his assessment of the effects of coverage of the movement by the white press. In Seeing Through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), he argues that in its reporting on the civil rights struggle in the South, the white press portrayed African Americans as pitiable rather than as empowered activists fighting for their rights. He suggests that this portrayal inhibited the movement, especially as the struggle in the South gave way to the rise of Black Power in the latter half of the 1960s.

67Dorothy Butler Gilliam, “The Critical Role of the Black Press in the Civil Rights Movement Has Not Received the Attention It Deserves,”, March 24, 2018,

68Roberts and Kilbanoff, Race Beat, 86.

69Paul Harvey, “The Civil Rights Movement, Religion, and Resistance,” Oxford University Press Blog, February 23, 2017,

70Martin Luther King., Jr.; quoted in Robert E. Weems, Desegregating the Dollar: African American Consumerism in the Twentieth Century (New York: New York University Press, 1998), 61.

71See Kevin M. Schultz, Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to its Protestant Promise (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

72See Gordon D. Gibson, Southern Witness: Unitarians and Universalists in the Civil Rights Era (Boston: Skinner House Books, 2016). Reverend Gibson discussed the role of southern Unitarian Universalists in the civil rights movement in an address at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, June 22–26, 2000. The audio and a transcript of his talk can be accessed through the Unitarian Universalist Association website,

73Henry Hampton was Director of Information for the Unitarian Universalist Church in his early twenties. Else, True South, 22-27.

74Weems, Desegregating the Dollar, 61

75Weems, Desegregating the Dollar, 62.

76Hall, “Long Civil Rights Movement,” 1234.

77Weems, Desegregating the Dollar, 56

78After her husband’s death, Coretta Scott King continued his campaign for economic justice. She worked with congressmen Hubert Humphrey and Augustus Hawkins to pass the 1978 Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act, which required the Federal Reserve to pursue full employment. Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, “Martin Luther King had an Economic Dream—And It Changed the Federal Reserve Forever,” Business Insider online, July 11, 2017,

79In 1960, Schweid was interviewed for an episode of the documentary news program NBC White Paper. The episode, “Sit In,” about the student movement in Nashville, includes a segment on the effects of the boycott. A clip from it can be found at Library of Congress, “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom,” accessed June 1, 2020,

80For more on Houston, see Genna Rae McNeil, Groundwork: Charles Hamilton Houston and the Struggle for Civil Rights (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984).

81Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (New York: Liverlight., 2017). Even after discriminatory government policies were taken off the books, they continued to shape racial demographics for decades; their effects are felt to this day.

82Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). For a discussion of the role social science played in the Supreme Court case and ruling, see John P. Jackson Jr., Social Scientists for Social Justice: Making the Case against Segregation (New York: NYU Press, 2005) and Daryl Michael Scott, Contempt and Pity: Social Policy and the Image of the Damaged Black Psyche, 1880-1996 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 119–36.

83“The Significance of ‘The Doll Test,’”, accessed May 2, 2020,

84Scott, Contempt and Pity, 119–36.

85“The Significance of ‘The Doll Test.’”

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