Hollis Watkins Going Strong

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, Inc.

Hollis Watkins Tux

Hollis Watkins. Photo from Mississippi Civil Rights Veterans web site.

Estuary Press has posted a new blog post on Hollis Watkins featuring a photo of Hollis with a copy of Critical Focus, The Black and White Photographs of Harvey Wilson Richards taken earlier this year (2014) during his appearance at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. (See the Estuary Press blog post for more photos.) All of the partners in the Teaching for Change educational initiative convening at Tougaloo college received the book. The Harvey Richards Media Archives offers both film and still photo resources to students studying the history of those years.

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.

When contact with SNCC was finally made, Charles McDew, Chairman of SNCC at the time, 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 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. 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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