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Sam Pollard Currently Directing Documentary "Slavery by Another Name;" Faces Challenges In Alabama

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 4, 2011 4:30 AM
9 Comments
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Long-time Spike Lee editor, as well as director and producer in his own right, Sam Pollard, is currently shooting a $1.5 million feature documentary for PBS titled Slavery by Another Name.

The film is based on the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Wall Street Journal writer Douglas Blackmon, which "challenges the belief that slavery ended with 1863's Emancipation Proclamation... [recounting] how in the years following the Civil War, new forms of forced labor emerged in the American South, trapping hundreds of thousands of African Americans in a brutal system that lasted until the onset of World War II."

In researching this, I read a recent report that states Pollard has apparently had some difficulty shooting parts of the film, specifically in Centreville, Alabama, where the town's mayor and city attorney are intent on blocking his attempts to shoot and recreate scenes in their locale, because, "We are a quiet, small town, and I don't want this to cause controversy," according to the mayor.

Pollard and his crew had already filmed in various locations in and around Centreville, but what the mayor and attorney most objected to was a reenactment scene in the town's park, that will "depict... actors as being slaves who were tied to a stake driven into the ground. He wanted to do that in a public park on a weekend when other people were using the park for recreational purposes. We didn't think that that was appropriate, and we felt like that would cause controversy. So, yes, the mayor had a problem with that," said the city attorney.

After a few formal exchanges, Pollard decided to reenact the scene in another location.

"This is the first time in the 10 years since I started researching and writing the book that the door was so overtly slammed in my face," journalist/author Blackmon said.

No ETA on when we can expect film to be completed, which will include reenactment scenes.

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9 Comments

  • CareyCarey | June 6, 2011 10:05 AMReply

    Slavery... Uuuuuum, let's see, what more do I need to know about that and whose comment support my opinion?

    Well, this one...

    "Making a film about slavery in Alabama and white people get upset? I mean really. Why should anyone be surprised by the reaction? And I’ll bet it isn’t just white people in the town who are upset about this" ~ Sergio

    Yep, there's one thing I've learned in life... it's basically impossible to change the opinion-att attitude, mindset of another person, especially if they do not have an invested interest to do so . I mean, a basic intrinsic quality of most humans is the need to be “right” which forces them to shy away from anything that could prove them wrong. So hey, if I change, or admit someone’s idea or concept or attitude or vision was/is better than mine, that might make me feel very uncomfortable. Humans don’t like feeling uncomfortable. What... don’t believe me? Go on any discussion board or stand by the office water cooler and look and listen for “ after further thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that you were absolutely right and I was wrong”. Nope-notta-forget about it.

    Slavery in America, after 1863? NO, YOU’RE KIDDING ME??!! Well, for starters, I ’ve heard of this place called Texas and a thang called “Juneteenth” Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order.

    Aside from that known fact, let’s say you’re a freed slave. You ain’t got a dime, no home and no where to go. A forced reality, and the basic need of survival, will force many to do what they do best, and what they’ve always done; work for Mr. Charlie for less than nothing. Slavery was not just about brutal bondage, it’s about controlling the mind of the man. So, although I do not know exactly what Sergio was hinting at, I know there are several negroes that want nothing to do with our “REAL” past history, for a plethora of reasons.

    Look at how “Black History Month” has been watered down to “name a few important negroes”.... the safe negroes. And, on a related noted, we all know there are many black faces that turn white when the white man gets upset. “Lordy lordy, bettah not make him angry, he’s might not like “us” no mo”

    "But boss man, I's not like the rest of those colored fellas!"

    "Is that right Leon, you're black aren't you!?"

    Having said all of that, I can’t say I am in any hurry to see another documentary or read another book on slavery. Really, what would be my purpose? Anything a man would do to a pig, a cow and two pit bulls, is the treatment given to slaves; chattel to be used and abused, breed and sold. What am I going to gain by watching another day in the life of some evil white people? Heck, to be truthful, I’d rather see a documentary on the new slave. Watch out now, I am getting ready to go somewhere.

    Yeah, you know, those slaves that are trying to look just like Betty Crocker... with long silky hair, that makes many of them look like damn fools, who’s wearing someone else’s hair. And those that are in a hurry to distance themselves from anything “black” which forces them to live in “his” neighborhood” and drive a car like “his”, which puts them smack dab on the new plantation of DEBT.... up to their ying-yang. Oh yeah, I’d pay big dollars to see our real history, and all it’s ugliness. Slavery, to a large degree, is in the mind.

  • AccidentalVisitor | June 5, 2011 6:50 AMReply

    I think Lynn, Terry and Miles have all nailed it. I am in total agreement.

  • Miles Ellison | June 5, 2011 6:23 AMReply

    If Confederate Civil War battles, secession celebrations or other "lost cause" romanticism were being reenacted, would there have been a problem?

  • Terry Bellamy | June 5, 2011 4:05 AMReply

    Acknowledging one's History and Culture is essential! The feelings of "White Guilt" or "Black Shame" no longer enter the picture... to deny your history... is to deny yourself... of who you are... and where you're going! It turns your power over to something... or someone else... that is no longer acceptable.

  • Sergio | June 5, 2011 3:27 AMReply

    Making a film about slavery in Alabama and white people get upset? I mean really. Why should anyone be surprised by the reaction?

    And I'll bet it isn't just white people in the town who are upset about this

  • Lynn | June 5, 2011 2:46 AMReply

    It sounds very interesting PBS showcases a lot of informative programs. I don't see anything wrong with this documentary.

    I think people don't want to be reminded about America's history. They want to forget the past and leave it as the past. People never complain when Jews have documentaries or reenactments about the Holocaust.

    Why should Black people just move on and simply "forget" about their past? “We are a quiet, small town, and I don’t want this to cause controversy,” The mayor needs to be schooled i hope he watches the documentary when it airs .

  • AccidentalVisitor | June 5, 2011 1:37 AMReply

    Purchased the book over a year ago but haven't gotten around to reading it yet because of the other books I'm still working my way through. Finished "Burried in the Bitter Waters" not too long ago and wanted to give myself a break from non-fiction accounts of the black struggle in the 20th century American South. Look forward to reading this book though.

  • Yoshi | June 4, 2011 5:25 AMReply

    One of the books on my reading list. Hope the documentary can get good publicity when it's done b/c this is a very important part of Black history and U.S. history that doesn't get much attention.

  • Vanessa | June 4, 2011 5:09 AMReply

    I was looking at the website for this yesterday. Interesting and something nobody talks about.

    http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/

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