Hollis Watkins Going Strong

Then (1963) and Now (2014)

Hollis Watkins with Critical Focus

Hollis Watkins, 2014. Photo courtesy of Deborah Menkart

Recently Hollis Watkins received a copy of Critical Focus when he provided opening remarks at a convening at Tougaloo College on teaching about the Civil Rights Movement. Teaching for Change provided a copy of Critical Focus to all the partners in this K-12 educational initiative, including  Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, Inc., where Hollis Watkins serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors. (Teaching for Change is affiliated with the Zinn Education Project which has made the book, Critical Focus, The Black and White Photographs of Harvey Wilson Richards by Paul Richards, available to teachers for the cost of postage. Critical Focus is also available as a eBook.)

Hollis Watkins, Mississippi, 1963

Hollis Watkins, 1963. Photo by Harvey Richards

Hollis Watkins was an associate of Amzie Moore back in the 1963 when Harvey Richards made his film We’ll Never Turn Back in Mississippi. Harvey made another version of this film called Freedom Bound which contains much the same footage but was never circulated. In the early 1960s, it was difficult to contact SNCC which caused a delay in their approval and participation in the film. During that delay, Harvey put Freedom Bound together just in case.

Charles McDew

Charles McDew, 1963. Photo from “We’ll Never Turn Back” by Harvey Richards

When contact was finally made, Charles McDew visited Harvey at his home in California and recorded some introductory remarks that were added to the film which was finally released as We’ll Never Turn Back. To read more about how this film, and a second film made in Mississippi in 1964 called Dream Deferred, were made, see The Story of How the Documentaries on Mississippi Voter Registration Drives Were Made. Hollis Watkins appears in both versions of the film and his singing is on the soundtracks.

Amzie Moore, Mississippi, 1963

Amzie Moore, 1963. Photo by Harvey Richards

Amzie Moore was the person who guided Harvey through Mississippi during the filming, introducing him to share croppers who had tried to register to vote and who were willing to tell their stories on camera.

One of the sharecroppers who told her story in the films was Fannie Lou Hamer (see film clip below). 

Jesse Harris

Jesse Harris, 1963. Photo from “We’ll Never Turn Back” by Harvey Richards

Freedom Bound Chalres McLauren

Charles McLaurin, 1963. Photo from “We’ll Never Turn Back” by Harvey Richards

Jesse Harris and Charles McLaurin who also appear in the films, now serve on the Board of Directors of the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.










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