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'Purlie Victorious'- a snapshot of the civil rights movement

Ossie Davis, Alan Alda, Nicholas Webster: 1963
Ossie Davis, Alan Alda, Nicholas Webster: 1963

At the University of Akron tonight, there will be a premiere of never-before-seen photographs commemorating African-American history. The exhibit will showcase photographs taken from the 1940s to the 1970s, and will show key scenes from the early civil rights movement of the 1960s. The photographer is native Opie Evans.

Like photographs, film has also captured history, and a film that has managed to do that well, as well as chronicle the changing tides of history, is the 1963 film Purlie Victorious, also known as Gone Are The Days!. The film based on the famed Broadway play written and starring Ossie Davis, who also wrote and played the lead in this film. Also starring is Ruby Dee, Beah Richards, Godfrey Cambridge, Hilda Haynes, Alan Alda, and Sorrell Booke.

The film is about a preacher, Purlie Victorious Judson (Davis) who, along with his fiance, Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins (Dee) return to the plantation where he grew up to retrieve inheritance from the property owner and self-congratulatory racist, Ol' Cap' Stonewall Jackson Cotchipee (Booke) who has stolen it. Upon their return to the farm, Lutiebelle meets Purlie's sister, Missy (Haynes) and brother, Gitlow( Cambridge), whom the latter plays the "Uncle Tom" for the boss, Ol' Cap', but talks about him behind his back. With pontifications about social change in the country, and how Purlie has a right to inheritance, him and Lutiebelle hatch a plan to con Ol' Cap' out of it. Just when you think you have counted the problems they will experience in the latter-day Jim Crow Georgia, Ol' Cap' has his own problems as his son, Charlie (Alda) supports the recent Supreme Court decision about integrating schools and thinks his father's attitudes are as outdated as can be. In this hilariously serious film, you are in for a treat to see how they intersect and how it concludes.

It is a film to enjoy, as well as a film that, like a photograph, captures an exciting time in our American history.