Freedom on My Mind (1994)
|Awards||Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins.|
Freedom on My Mind
Freedom on My Mind is a 1994 feature documentary film that tells the story of the Mississippi voter registration struggles of 1961 to 1964, which was characterized by violence against the people involved, including multiple instances of murder.
The film was produced and directed by Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford. Participants interviewed include Bob Moses, Victoria Gray Adams, Endesha Ida Mae Holland, and Freedom Summer volunteers Marshall Ganz, Heather Booth, and Pam Allen.
Freedom on My Mind premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, won that year's Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
In 1961, Mississippi was rigidly segregated. There were virtually no black voters even though African-Americans comprised a large percentage of the population, the majority in some localities. Bob Moses entered the state and the Mississippi Voter Registration Project began. The first black farmer who attempted to register was fatally shot by a Mississippi State Representative, E.H. Hurst. Due to intimidation of witnesses, one of whom, Louis Allen, was slain, Hurst was never prosecuted.
Among the events depicted in the film is the Freedom Summer of 1964, in which three civil rights workers were slain.
Freedom on My Mind combines personal interviews, rare archival film and television footage, authentic Mississippi Delta blues, and Movement gospel songs. It emphasizes the strategic brilliance of Mississippi's young, black organizers. Barred from political participation, they created their own integrated party the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. They recruited a thousand mostly white students from around the country to come to Mississippi, bringing the eyes and conscience of the nation with them. The students and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party organizers put together a delegation of sharecroppers, maids, and day-laborers that challenged the all-white delegates in the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The film describes how their effort to replace the state's delegation was not accepted by the Democratic Party leadership, embittering the activists.
Ultimately their efforts succeeded. In 1965 Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, and by 1990, Mississippi had more elected black officials than any other state in the country.
Freedom on My Mind received favorable reviews and was named among the best films of the year by The San Francisco Examiner and The Oakland Tribune. Variety called it "a landmark documentary that chronicles the most tumultuous and significant years in the history of the civil rights movement. A must see." It was broadcast on PBS's American Experience and internationally, and has been used educationally in colleges and universities around the world.
The Washington Post said that the film "conveys the human dimensions of the fight with such a powerful combination of sensitivity and intelligence and pure emotional insight that it seems as if the facts were being set down for the very first time. As political history this is superlative stuff." The San Francisco Examiner called it "a great success. It manages not only to record the inspiring experiences of the white volunteers and black pioneers of the voting rights drive, but also to place those experiences within a larger and more depressing story of power politics at the national level."
Critic John Petrakis, of The Chicago Tribune called the film "superbly produced and "must-viewing for anyone with an interest in the civil rights movement or American history."
- Sundance Film Festival: Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary (1994)
- Academy Awards: Nominated as Best Feature Documentary (1994)
- winner, Erik Barnouw Award, Organization of American Historians (1995)
- winner, John O'Connor Award, American Historical Association
- winner, Distinguished Documentary Award, International Documentary Association (1994)
- winner, CINE Golden Eagle (1996)