Yohuru Williams Featured in "An Outrage," History of Lynching Doc at Smithsonian
Dr. Yohuru Williams, history professor and interim dean of Fairfield University’s College of Arts and Sciences, is taking his Civil Rights expertise from the college classroom to the big screen. The education activist is among five esteemed historians featured in An Outrage, a captivating new documentary about lynching in the American South scheduled to premiere at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D. C., on Saturday, March 11, at 4 p.m. Following the screening, Dr. Williams will join the filmmakers and fellow historian John Holloway of Yale University for an interactive Q&A session.
Created through a partnership between the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project and independent filmmakers Hannah Ayers and Lance Warren of Field Studio in Virginia, An Outrage shines a spotlight on the history of lynching in the United States and explores its resonance today. Filmed on-location at various lynching sites in Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and Virginia, the documentary’s message is delivered by the memories and perspectives of community activists, scholars and descendants of victims.
“The opportunity to work with Dr. Williams really appealed to us,” said Warren, who co-directed, edited and produced the film alongside Ayers. “It was important that the people who contributed to the film have a deep connection to this history and a deep understanding of its contemporary resonance. Dr. Williams does, on both accounts, to a profound degree and has the ability to articulate and engage the public sphere in a way that not every scholar can.”
Dr. Williams had been working on his forthcoming book, Six Degrees of Segregation: Lynching, Capital Punishment and Jim Crow Justice, 1865-1930, for over a decade when he was approached by Warren and Ayers to participate in the film. Agreeing that lynching remains one of the most ugly aspects of American History, he felt it was very important to lend his voice and insight to the film.
“I had the opportunity to screen the documentary, and quite frankly, was a bit overwhelmed by the stirring power of the story and images,” Dr. Williams said. “I think it is an important conversation piece and hope that it gets people talking about the history of racial violence in this country.”
The 30-minute documentary is designed for use in classrooms and community forums and will be made available to teachers for free this fall through the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project, an anti-bias education program with a network of nearly 500,000 teachers across the country. The Smithsonian premiere is being presented as part of the History Film Forum, a four-day celebration of American history cinema sponsored by the Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Arts.
“After seeing this film, I hope people are inspired to learn more about African American history - in all of its complexities - and understand why conversations about race and justice remain essential to society as a whole,” Dr. Williams said. “I also hope people are able to see the connections to the contemporary Black Lives Matter Movement, which, while not direct, are nonetheless palpable in the film.”
An expert on African American History, Twentieth Century United States History and Social Studies pedagogy, Dr. Williams is the author and editor of several books including Black Politics/White Power: Civil Rights Black Power and Black Panthers in New Haven (Blackwell, 2006), Rethinking the Black Freedom Movement (Routledge, 2015) and Teaching beyond the Textbook: Six Investigative Strategies (Corwin Press, 2008). He recently co-edited the book The Black Panthers: Portraits of an Unfinished Revolution (Nation Books, 2016) that has received critical acclaim from The New York Times and The Washington Post. He has also appeared as a media expert on many local and national programs including Al Jazeera America, Ebru TV, Fox Business, C-SPAN and NPR, to name a few.
For more information on An Outrage or to view the film's trailer, visit www.an-outrage.com.