To mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the National Endowment for the Humanities has developed a special initiative, Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle. As part of the NEH's Bridging Cultures initiative, Created Equal uses the power of documentary films to spark public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in America.
Four outstanding historical documentary films, spanning the period from the 1830s to the 1960s, are the centerpiece for this project. Each of these films was supported by the NEH, and each tells the remarkable stories of individuals who challenged the social and legal status quo of deeply rooted institutions, from slavery to segregation.
Created Equal encourages communities to revisit the history of civil rights in America and to reflect on the ideals of freedom and equality that have helped bridge deep racial and cultural divides. Four hundred and seventy-three communities across the nation have received the Created Equal film set, accompanied by resources to guide public discussion programs.
Westerville is one of the communities selected to receive the film collection. The Westerville Parks and Recreation Department has partnered with the Westerville Public Library and Otterbein University to host a series of film screenings and community discussions.
Overviews of the films and details of their Westerville presentations:
* Freedom Riders -- 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20 at the Westerville Community Center, 350 N. Cleveland Ave.
Freedom Riders tells the terrifying, moving, and suspenseful story of a time when white and black volunteers riding a bus into the Deep South risked being jailed, beaten, or killed, as white local and state authorities ignored or encouraged violent attacks. The film includes previously unseen amateur 8mm footage of the burning bus on which some Freedom Riders were temporarily trapped, taken by a local 12-year-old and held as evidence since 1961 by the FBI.
* The Loving Story -- 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13 at the Otterbein University Campus Center 100 W. Home St
Through little-known filmed interviews and photographs shot for Life magazine, The Loving Story brings to life the heart-rending love story of a multicultural couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, and the legal battle they fought in the late 1950s to remain a couple.
* Slavery by Another Name -- 6 p.m. Thursday, March 27 at the Westerville Senior Center, 310 W. Main St.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name tells the stories of men, charged with crimes like vagrancy, and often guilty of nothing, who were bought and sold, abused, and subjected to sometimes deadly working conditions as unpaid convict labor. Interviews with the descendants of victims and perpetrators resonate with a modern audience. Christina Comer, who discovered how her family profited from the system, says, "The story is important no matter how painful the reality is."
* The Abolitionists -- 6 p.m. Thursday, April 17 at the Westerville Public Library, 126 S. State St.
The Abolitionists vividly brings to life the struggles of the men and women who led the battle to end slavery. Through innovative use of re-enactments, this three-episode series puts a face on the anti-slavery movement: William Lloyd Garrison, impassioned New England newspaper editor; Frederick Douglass, former slave, author, and activist; Angelina Grimke, daughter of a rich South Carolina slaveholder; Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the enormously influential Uncle Tom's Cabin; and John Brown, ultimately executed for his armed seizure of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, W.Va. The film's release in 2013 marked the 150th anniversary year of the Emancipation Proclamation.
All programming for Created Equal is free and open to the public. For more information call 614-901-6506.
Phyllis Self, recreation operations superintendent for the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department, is a member of the Arts Council of Westerville.
December arts events
The Westerville ArtsLine column and calendar is provided by the Arts Council of Westerville and printed as a public service by ThisWeek Westerville News & Public Opinion. Email listings to artscouncilwesterville@yahoo. com.
Jan. 1-31 -- Art Exhibition featuring a collage of women artists at the Westerville Community Center 350 N. Cleveland Ave.
Jan. 4, 11, 18, 25 -- Live music at Java Central from 7-10 p.m., 20 S. State St. java-central.com or 614-839-0698
Jan. 11 -- Tunes & Tales: The Velveteen Rabbit is presented by the Westerville Symphony in partnership with the Westerville Public Library for children ages 3-8. The program is free but registration is required; 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. at the Westerville Public Library 126 S. State St. For more information call 614-882-7277