Tribeca First Look: ‘Lowndes County And The Road To Black Power’ Uncovers “Crucial Chapter” In Civil Rights Movement

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Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power

EXCLUSIVE: Voter suppression in this country is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it goes all the way back to Reconstruction following the Civil War, the moment when African Americans ostensibly first gained access to the ballot box.

The passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 was meant to correct systemic and deliberate barriers to voting and to be a crowning achievement in the struggle for civil rights. Instead, as the new documentary Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power reveals, that legislation “represented not the culmination of the Civil Rights Movement, but the beginning of a new, crucial chapter.”

Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power, directed by Sam Pollard and Geeta Gandbhir, held its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Tuesday and will screen again on Saturday afternoon (at Village East at Angelika). The documentary is a Peacock Original presented by Participant, produced by Multitude Films in association with The Atlantic. It will stream on NBC Universal’s Peacock platform at a date to be announced.

“Nowhere was this next battle [in the Civil Rights Movement] better epitomized than in Lowndes County, Alabama, a rural, impoverished county with a vicious history of racist terrorism,” notes a release about the film. “In a county that was 80 percent Black but had zero Black voters, laws were just paper without power. This isn’t a story of hope but of action. Through first person accounts and searing archival footage, Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power tells the story of the local movement and young Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizers who fought not just for voting rights, but for Black Power in Lowndes County.”

Both Pollard and Gandbhir are Emmy winners. Pollard’s credits include MLK/FBI, Citizen Ashe (co-directed with Rex Miller), and the Peabody Award-winning Mr. Soul! (co-directed with Melissa Haizlip). Gandbhir’s credits include I Am Evidence (co-directed with Trish Adlesic), and Call Center Blues.

“What stood out to us about the history of Lowndes County’s role in the Civil Rights Movement was that it was locally led and that a key piece of SNCC’s strategy was to leave behind a community that could continue working on its own behalf,” Gandbhir and Pollard said in a statement. “As the struggle for racial justice and racial equity continues in this country, it was important for us to find values-led partners in Multitude, The Atlantic, and Participant, and we’re excited that Peacock is now on board to share the film with audiences.”

Tribeca praises the film for “expertly [weaving] rarely seen archival footage and first-person testimony to create a solid sense of place and capture the high-stakes tension on the ground.” Festival programmer Karen McMullen writes, “The story here is told by the Black and white people who were there at the time, including grassroots organizers and citizens content with the status quo, who share their personal anecdotes of that tumultuous time, lending an uncommon intimacy and authenticity to this historical documentary. Against a backdrop of blatant and brutal violence against freedom fighters, a young Stokely Carmichael brings passion to the crusade, and we witness the evolution of the SNCC into a powerful force on the frontlines, fanning the cause outward throughout the South.”

Carmichael became chairman of SNCC in 1966, succeeding John Lewis. He would go on to become the most visible leader of the Black Power movement (he changed his name to Kwame Ture in 1978, after moving to Africa amid CIA harassment. He died in Guinea in 1998 at the age of 57).

Archive of Carmichael reflecting on his time in Lowndes County features prominently in the exclusive clip above. It begins with contemporary recollections of a Carmichael associate, looking back at her experiences during that pivotal time in Alabama.

Tribeca First Look: ‘Lowndes County And The Road To Black Power’ Uncovers “Crucial Chapter” In Civil Rights Movement

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