Eyes on the Prize

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Eyes on the Prize
Also known as Eyes on the Prize I
Eyes on the Prize II
Genre Documentary
Format Non-fictional
Based on Civil Rights Movement
Narrated by Julian Bond
Opening theme Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 14
Production
Executive producer(s) Henry Hampton
Producer(s) Judith Vecchione
Jon Else
Location(s) United States
Running time 60 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
Picture format Black-and-white
Original run January 21, 1987 (1987-01-21) – March 5, 1990 (1990-03-05)
External links
PBS
Blackside, Inc.

Eyes on the Prize is an American television series and 14-hour documentary about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The documentary originally aired on the PBS network and also aired in the United Kingdom on BBC2. Created and executive-produced by Henry Hampton at Blackside, Inc., the series uses archival footage and interviews with participants of the movement. The title of the series is derived from the folk song "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize," which is used in each episode as the opening theme music.

A total of 14 episodes of Eyes on the Prize were produced over two seasons. The first season, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954–1964, chronicles the time period between the United States Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education (1954) to the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965. The first season consists of six episodes, which premiered on January 21, 1987 and concluded on February 25, 1987. The second season, Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965–1985, consists of eight episodes, which aired on January 15, 1990 and ended on March 5, 1990.

Since its debut, the series has been lauded for its depiction of the Civil Rights Movement. The documentary is used extensively in primary and secondary schools, as well as, other educational settings as a way to convey the experiences and struggle for civil rights in the United States.

Broadcast[edit]

The film originated as two sequential projects. Part one, six hours long, was shown on PBS in early 1987 as Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954–1965). Eight more hours were broadcast in 1990 as Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads (1965–1985).

It was quickly released to home video (in VHS and Laserdisc). By the mid-1990s, both rebroadcasts and home video production were halted for several years due to limits on the licenses of the copyrights of the archive footage used, and increasingly higher rates imposed by the copyright holders.[1] Grants from the Ford Foundation and others enabled Blackside to renew rights.[2] To date, PBS has rebroadcast the first six hours on three consecutive Mondays in October 2006,[3] and rebroadcast the second eight hours in February 2008.[4]

PBS reissued an educational version of the series in the fall of 2006, making it available on DVD for the first time.[5] It is now available to educational institutions and libraries from PBS on seven DVDs (ISBN 0-7936-9262-8) or seven VHS tapes. A consumer version of part one (1954–1965) was released in March 2010.[6] It is unclear whether any footage has been changed to appease rightsholders.

The licensing issues from 1993 to 2006 generated what was called Eyes on the Screen, an effort to disseminate the series by file sharing networks without regard to copyright restrictions.

Episodes[edit]

Each episode of the series is narrated by Julian Bond. A founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Bond emerged as a notable figure in the Civil Rights Movement in 1965 when he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives after passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protected voting by African Americans. The House refused to seat him because he publicly endorsed SNCC's opposition to US involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1966, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled that the Georgia House of Representatives had denied Bond his freedom of speech and was required to seat him.[7]

Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965[edit]

No. in
series
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
1 1 "Awakenings (1954-1956)" Judith Vecchione Steve Fayer January 21, 1987 (1987-01-21)
2 2 "Fighting Back (1957-1962)" Judith Vecchione Steve Fayer January 28, 1987 (1987-01-28)
3 3 "Ain't Scared of Your Jails (1960-1961)" Orlando Bagwell Steve Fayer February 4, 1987 (1987-02-04)
4 4 "No Easy Walk (1961-1963)" Callie Crossley & James A. DeVinney Callie Crossley, James A. DeVinney, & Steve Fayer February 11, 1987 (1987-02-11)
5 5 "Mississippi: Is This America? (1963-1964)" Orlando Bagwell Steve Fayer February 18, 1987 (1987-02-18)
6 6 "Bridge to Freedom (1965)" Callie Crossley & James A. DeVinney Callie Crossley, James A. DeVinney, & Steve Fayer February 25, 1987 (1987-02-25)

Eyes on the Prize: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-1985[edit]

No. in
series
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
7 1 "The Time Has Come (1964-66)" James A. DeVinney & Madison D. Lacy James A. DeVinney & Madison D. Lacy January 15, 1990 (1990-01-15)
8 2 "Two Societies (1965-68)" Sheila Curran Bernard & Samuel D. Pollard Sheila Curran Bernard, Steve Fayer, & Samuel D. Pollard January 22, 1990 (1990-01-22)
9 3 "Power! (1966-68)" Louis J. Massiah & Terry Kay Rockefeller Steve Fayer, Louis J. Massiah, & Terry Kay Rockefeller January 29, 1990 (1990-01-29)
10 4 "The Promised Land (1967-68)" Jacqueline Shearer & Paul Stekler Steve Fayer, Jacqueline Shearer, & Paul Stekler February 5, 1990 (1990-02-05)
11 5 "Ain't Gonna Shuffle No More (1964-72)" Sheila Curran Bernard & Samuel D. Pollard Sheila Curran Bernard, Steve Fayer, & Samuel D. Pollard February 15, 1990 (1990-02-15)
12 6 "A Nation of Law? (1968-71)" Louis J. Massiah, Thomas Ott, & Terry Kay Rockefeller Steve Fayer, Louis J. Massiah, Thomas Ott, & Terry Kay Rockefeller February 19, 1990 (1990-02-19)
13 7 "The Keys to the Kingdom (1974-80)" Jacqueline Shearer & Paul Stekler Steve Fayer, Jacqueline Shearer, & Paul Stekler February 26, 1990 (1990-02-26)
14 8 "Back to the Movement (1979-mid 80s)" James A. DeVinney & Madison D. Lacy James A. DeVinney, Steve Fayer, & Madison D. Lacy March 5, 1990 (1990-03-05)

Book[edit]

The book of the same title was created as a companion volume to the series during post-production by the producers and publishing staff at Blackside, Inc. They were assisted by Juan Williams, a Washington Post journalist. (hardcover ISBN 0-670-81412-1, paperback ISBN 0-245-54668-5). First published by Viking Press in 1987, the book used a portion of the iconic photograph of the Selma to Montgomery march taken by Look magazine photographer James Karales on its cover.

Reception[edit]

The series has been hailed as more than just a historical document. Clayborne Carson, a Stanford University history professor and editor of the published papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., said that "it is the principal film account of the most important American social justice movement of the 20th century". Because of its extensive use of primary sources and in-depth coverage of the material, it has been adopted as a key reference and record of the civil rights movement. However, it is a product of its time and as such its facts are not always current; for example, it states that nobody was ever convicted of the murder of Medgar Evers, which was true at that time. But Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of that murder on February 5, 1994, after having lived as a free man for much of the three decades following the killing (he was imprisoned from 1977 to 1980 for conspiring to murder A. I. Botnick). De La Beckwith appealed unsuccessfully, and died at age 80 in prison in January 2001.

Awards[edit]

Episode six, Bridge to Freedom, produced by Callie Crossley and James A. DeVinney, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1988 during the 60th Academy Awards.[8]

References[edit]

External links[edit]