My Past Is My Own

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My Past Is My Own
Written byAlan L. Gansberg
Directed byHelaine Head
StarringWhoopi Goldberg
Phill Lewis
Allison Dean
Music byGeorge S. Clinton
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producerBradley Wigor
ProducersAlan L. Gansberg
Michael Killen
Joseph Maurer
Larry Rapaport
CinematographyBernard Salzmann
EditorJayme Wing
Running time60 minutes
Original release
  • January 24, 1989 (1989-01-24)

My Past Is My Own is a television film which aired as a CBS Schoolbreak Special on January 24, 1989.[1] The film is centered on a sit-in in the early 1960s at a racially segregated lunch counter in the Southern United States. Whoopi Goldberg, Phill Lewis and Allison Dean portray the lead characters.

Writer/producer Alan Gansberg was awarded the 1989 Humanitas Prize in the Children's Live-Action Category for his work on My Past Is My Own.[2] Editor Jayme Wing was nominated for an Emmy for best achievement in film editing.


Justin Cook (Phill Lewis) and his sister Kerry (Allison Dean) are two African American teenagers living in a middle-class New Jersey household in the late 1980s. The Cook family is visited by their distant cousin, psychologist Mariah Johnston (Whoopi Goldberg). A contemporary of Justin and Kerry's parents, Mariah is about to receive an award for her years of community work, particularly in the area of civil rights. Having been born after the Civil Rights Movement, Justin and Kerry never experienced Jim Crow segregation, and the two fail to appreciate the stories about the era that Mariah and their parents recount at dinner.

While Justin and Kerry sleep that night, they are mysteriously transported to a small town in Georgia in 1961. While there, the siblings participate in a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter. The protest is staged by a group of local teenagers and young adults—including their cousin Mariah. The siblings are horrified by the hostility and racism of local White residents, and inspired by the strength displayed by Mariah and the others as the group is harassed during the sit-in.

When they awaken the following morning, the siblings find themselves back in the 1980s. No one is aware of their journey to the past except Justin and Kerry themselves (and possibly Mariah). As the Cook family watches Mariah accept her award later that day, Justin and Kerry do so with a greater appreciation for Mariah, the Civil Rights Movement, and the history of African Americans in general.



  • The James Ingram tune "Remember the Dream" serves as the theme song for the movie.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. (January 24, 1989). "Review/Television; On 'Schoolbreak,' 60's Civil Rights". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-05.
  2. ^ Humanitas Prize website (Children's Live-Action Category) Archived 2008-09-15 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ The song was also billed as the "theme song" for YSB (Young Sisters & Brothers), a short-lived magazine owned by Black Entertainment Television in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

External links[edit]