This past weekend, the March on Washington celebrated its 50th anniversary, and today is Women's Equality Day, both days celebrating the constant daily struggle for equality in our country that was founded on the idea that all of us are created equal. We remember the brave men and women who sacrificed everything, including their lives, to gain the equal right to vote, the equal right to be counted as a citizen, and the equal right to have the same opportunity to achieve professionally, realized through law. Our history is a consistent struggle to live those words, and we remember those along the way that sought to realize those words, like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, fifty years ago, spoke at the Lincoln Memorial the words "I have a dream that we will be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character." Those words ring as profoundly as they did in 1963 as they do now. While there are many people who view a person based on the color of their skin, King's words are reminders to keep working towards social equality. Akron's residents, including the former mayor, Dorothy Jackson, recently took part in a video retelling for the Akron Beacon Journal commemorating that anniversary.
Since film, like any other art form, reflects of the times of which they are made, has started, encouraged, and captured discussion, there are many films that have captured the struggle throughout the years. Many of them are classic. Here are several that come to mind:
1) Adam's Rib (1949)- starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Tom Ewell, Jean Hagen, and Judy Holliday. The film questions the double standards that exist between men and women and challenges how it manifests in law. It's a comedy, as well as a romantic drama, but it gets you thinking.
2) Gentleman's Agreement (1947)- starring Gregory Peck, John Garfield, Anne Revere, Dorothy McGuire, Celeste Holm, June Havoc, Jane Wyatt, and Dean Stockwell. One of the first films to explore racism, and while the focus is on Antisemitism, the film dares to explore how we pre-judge others, how we differentiate others negatively, and what it is like to walk in another's shoes who does not share the same experiences.
3)Island In The Sun (1957)- starring Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge, Joan Fontaine, James Mason, Joan Collins, Michael Rennie, Stephen Boyd, and Diana Wynyard. The film takes place in the Carribean, but the film addresses civil rights issues such as equal rights, the right to be counted as citizens, and the right to fall in love with whoever you fall in love with.
4) Nothing But A Man (1964)- starring Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln. The film shows realistically what African Americans went through in the American South, and with the film focused on the humanity of a proud factory worker and a school teacher, it does not hold anything back in showing their personal and public struggles.
5) In The Heat Of The Night (1967)- starring Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Lee Grant, and Warren Oates. The film centers around a police detective from Philadelphia who is accused of murdering someone, and ends up getting involved in solving the case, even though he is in the hotbed of hostile racism, that gets him in and out of life threatening circumstances, but still fighting for the respect he deserves.
These films are just a sampling of films that have explored the civil rights struggle, and still get discussions out of them. Watch them and talk.