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This video, shown on PBS, documents a wonderful story: Two high schools in Birmingham, Alabama, collaborate to produce “To Kill a Mockingbird.” One high school is all-black, the other is all-white. We are reminded that desegregation peaked in the 1980s, according to the UCLA Civil Rights Project.
The video shows high school students working together to present the play. The video devotes more time to the historical setting of the book, the realities of life in Birmingham and the segregated South than to the production. This is not a disadvantage but a strength because the play and the novel are set in time. The video includes film footage of the segregated South in the 1930s (which the book portrays) and the 1950s (when the book was written and the civil rights movement was on the march). It includes film footage of civil rights protests in Birmingham, when the police loosed dogs on black demonstrators. It interviews black and white adults about life under segregation. It includes clips from the film that starred Gregory Peck and home-made films from local families. It interviews the actors who appeared in the 1962 film and the students who appear in the play today. It raises the irony of white families who trusted black servants to raise their children yet would not allow black children to attend the local schools or universities.
It is a must-see, partly for the ideas of the play, but mostly for its realistic portrayal of segregation then and now and for the reactions of today’s students. It is an important story about our history, our past and our present.