Ralph e-mails to request that we note Seth Alexander's "Crossing Town: Brown's Legacy in Nashville" (Tennesse Indymedia).
When: Sept. 11 2:30 p.m.
Where: Main Library (downtown Nashville)
What: Crossing Town: Brown's Legacy in Nashville, documentary by Ansley Erickson.
Here's Alexander's "Crossing Town: Brown's Legacy in Nashville:"
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – What difference did cross-town busing make in the efforts to integrate Nashville’s schools? What was gained and what was lost through school desegregation? What challenges remain 51 years after Brown v. Board of Education? A new, 60-minute documentary film that premieres to the public on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 2:30 p.m. at the downtown Main Library explores these questions and more relating to the storied history of school desegregation in Nashville.
The program comes two days after the 48th anniversary of when 13 black first-graders enrolled in formerly all-white schools in Nashville, making it the first major city in the South to begin the process of desegregating its schools. Crossing Town: Brown's Legacy in Nashville, by filmmaker, historian and teacher Ansley Erickson, delves into the topic by focusing on one high school and three generations of a Nashville family through the turbulent years of school desegregation.
"To understand this story, I started by talking to a range of people who lived through the early years of busing as parents, teachers, students, or community observers," Erickson said. "Their stories weren't so much about what happened in classrooms as they were about human struggles."
The human side of the evolution of Nashville’s schools from segregated to integrated is dispersed throughout the film in interviews with recent high school graduate Brittany Dixon, her uncle Hubert Dixon, III and her grandfather Hubert Dixon, Jr. On the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision, Brittany Dixon graduated from a very racially diverse Nashville high school. In the audience were her grandfather, who had attended all-black segregated schools, and her uncle, who had been bused to seven schools in neighborhoods across Nashville as a student.
"The Dixon family’s story is a compelling example of how many Nashvillians experienced the desegregation process," Erickson said. "Busing and desegregation changed lives over generations, and I felt it was important for viewers to get a sense of this change over time."
In 1957, after court action by black Nashville citizens, the city officially desegregated its schools by allowing black parents to pick schools for their children to attend, but a federal court rejected the voluntary plan the following year. In 1958 the school board decided to integrate one grade each year, starting with first-graders, a method that became known as the "Nashville Plan." By 1970, all 12 grades of the public school system officially were integrated, but most students still attended schools made up predominantly of their own race. It wasn't until court-ordered busing began in 1971 that the majority of Nashville students attended significantly integrated schools. "The early interviews I collected for this film quickly convinced me that this wasn't only a tale of going to new schools, but it was also about the old schools they lost," Erickson said.
Three of those "old schools," the previously all-black Cameron High School and the predominantly white Donelson and Two Rivers high schools, were brought together at McGavock Comprehensive High School, the main setting for Crossing Town. McGavock opened as an integrated school in 1971.
Interviews with prominent Nashvillians who graduated from McGavock, such as former professional basketball player Charles Davis and former president of David Lipscomb University Steve Flatt, give depth to the impact that integration had on all aspects of school life, from the classrooms and hallways to the athletic fields.
Erickson’s film also features insights from several other Nashville leaders, including: Chancellor Richard Dinkins, who worked with partner Avon Williams, Jr., on the Nashville school desegregation case during the 1970s and 1980s; Tennessee State University Professor Bobby L. Lovett; and Rev. Bruce Maxwell, whose father filed suit against the old Davidson County school system to end school segregation.
Now seeking a PhD in American History at Columbia University, Erickson started the film project in 2003 while living in Nashville. Having taught in New York City schools where almost all of her students were of African descent and had little experience with integrated settings or with white students, Erickson says the Nashville school desegregation story was fascinating to her.
"Although Nashville is famous for its role in the sit-in movement, I think the city's school desegregation story is a less familiar but equally important one," Erickson says. "I hope that this film will create conversation about what was accomplished and what is left yet undone toward making schooling equitable for all children, black or white, rich or poor."
DVD copies of Crossing Town will be available for purchase following the program at the library. Call the library, located at 615 Church St. at (615) 862-5782 for more details, or visit www.library.nashville.org.
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