Anne Braden: Southern Patriot
An Appalshop Documentary by Anne Lewis & Mimi Pickering
77 min, 2012 • annebradenfilm.org
“Anne Braden’s life stories drill down to the roots of the country’s struggles for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. I salute Anne for the extraordinary courage of her life.” Bob Moses, former Mississippi SNCC field secretary and founder, Algebra Project
“If it was Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King who convinced me to join the struggle, it was Anne Braden who showed me how to do it.” Bob Zellner, SNCC’s first white staff member
“I go to these meetings and people talk about how we’ve got to build better relations and I say, ‘First of all we’ve got to deal with this whole issue of white supremacy,’ and it’s like you threw a snake on the table. But I don’t care. I’ll be obnoxious.” Anne Braden
Anne Braden: Southern Patriot is a documentary exploration of the life and legacy of this American civil rights leader. After she was charged with sedition for attempting to desegregate a Louisville, Kentucky neighborhood in 1954, Braden used the attack to turn herself “inside out” and embarked upon a lifetime of racial justice organizing matched by few whites in American history. Braden was hailed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” as a white southerner whose rejection of her segregationist upbringing was “eloquent and prophetic,” and named as one of only five white southerners he could count as allies. Labeled a “traitor to her race” and ostracized as a “red” by segregationists and even many in the civil rights movement, she fought for an inclusive movement community and demonstrated that protecting civil liberties was essential to gaining civil rights. After decades of being shunned by even the most progressive organizations, in 1989 Anne Braden was awarded the first Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union as a “lifelong leader of the movements for racial justice, labor rights, and peace in the South.”
Described as “one of the great figures of our time” by historian Jacquelyn Hall, Braden died in 2006 leaving a remarkable legacy as a grassroots organizer, committed journalist, civil rights leader, movement strategist, social chronicler, public intellectual, teacher and mentor to three generations of social justice activists. In the midst of production at the time, the filmmakers continued with the documentary with other producers graciously contributing additional media.
In the film Braden is articulate, insightful, challenging, self-effacing, and charming. Her reflections on the significance of a lifetime of racial justice organizing are interspersed with commentary from civil rights leaders, organizers, historians, students and friends who intersected with her at key moments in her life. Archival material of the civil rights movement and historical and contemporary footage of Anne participating in the social justice community are juxtaposed with a variety of interviews.
In a time of war, terrorism, economic uncertainty, religious controversies and a very polarizing atmosphere, unresolved issues around race and racial justice, civil rights and civil liberties, class and gender equity inform our national debates. Braden engages audiences with a unique southern voice for a much needed discourse on the continuum of struggle for civil rights and civil liberties from the founding of our democracy to the present, and the responsibilities of whites to join the fight against racism and white privilege. Through this exploration of Anne Braden’s story we see not only the dangers of racism and political repression but also the power of a woman’s life spent in commitment to social justice.
About the Filmmakers
Anne Lewis is an independent documentary-maker associated with Appalshop and currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Texas-Austin School of Radio/Television/Film. Her work reveals working class people fighting for social change. Anne was associate director/assistant camera for Harlan County, U.S.A., the Academy Award-winning documentary about the Brookside strike. After the strike, she moved to the eastern Kentucky coalfields where she lived for 25 years. Documentaries she produced, directed, and edited include: To Save the Land and People (SXSW, Texas Documentary Tour) a history of a militant grassroots environmental movement; Justice in the Coalfields (INTERCOM gold plaque) about the community impact of the Pittston strike; On Our Own Land (duPont-Columbia Award for independent broadcast journalism) about the citizens’ movement to stop broad form deed strip mining; Chemical Valley, co-directed with Mimi Pickering (P.O.V., American Film and Video Blue Ribbon) about environmental racism; and most recently, Morristown, a working class response to globalization. Her documentary Fast Food Women about women struggling to raise families in minimum wage jobs with no benefits received national airing on P.O.V. and was part of a Learning Channel series of films about women by women.
Mimi Pickering is a Guggenheim award-winning filmmaker and director of Appalshop’s Community Media Initiative (CMI). Pickering’s documentaries often feature women as principle storytellers, focus on injustice and inequity, and explore the efforts of grassroots people to address community issues that often reflect global issues. In 2005, her film The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man was selected by the Librarian of Congress for inclusion in the prestigious National Film Registry. Other award-winning documentaries include Chemical Valley, an examination of environmental racism co-directed with Anne Lewis; Dreadful Memories: The Life of Sarah Ogan Gunning explores the legacy of this singer/songwriter whose hauntingly beautiful ballads were written from her experiences in Kentucky’s strike-torn coalfields of the 1930s; Hazel Dickens: It’s Hard to Tell the Singer From the Song celebrates this West Virginia singer/songwriter and powerful social chronicler described by the Washington Post as “a living legend of American music, a national treasure.”
About Appalshop, the Producing Organization
Appalshop is in its fifth decade using cultural organizing and place-based media, arts and education to advance social justice, environmental sustainability, and economic equity. Since 1969, Appalshop has produced creative work celebrating the culture and voicing the concerns of people in the mountain South and other rural and underserved communities. Appalshop’s location, longevity, and range of work in content and across disciplines make it unusual among cultural institutions in this country. Located in Whitesburg, Kentucky, a town of two thousand people in the heart of the Appalachian coalfields, Appalshop began as a War on Poverty program to train young people for jobs in the film and television industries. Underlying all of Appalshop’s work is the belief that those most deeply affected by society’s problems must be involved in articulating the issues and creating the solutions. As educator Paulo Freire stated in reference to the disenfranchised, “Speaking their own words, naming the world… (are) steps towards transforming that world.”
About the Funders
This project is funded and supported in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future. Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com.
- KET Fund for Independent Production
- Appalshop Production and Education Fund
- Southern Humanities Media Fund
- October Fund
- Kentucky Humanities Council
- United States Artists
- Carla Wallace
- Appalachian Community Fund
- Wallace Foundation
- Kentucky Foundation for Women