In a Black History Month series debuting at 9 p.m. Thursday on WTVI (Channel 42), documentarian and reporter Steve Crump examines the watershed summer of 1963 and its impact on the civil rights movement.
That was the year of the March on Washington, of the assassination of Medgar Evers and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., that killed four girls.
“It was the year of change in America unlike any other,” said Crump, who spent a year on the project. “You had some people that demonstrated for the cause of freedom by giving their lives.”
Crump’s research for “Flashbacks and Tributes From the Summer of ’63” took him to Birmingham, Washington and Jackson, Miss., to interview key figures from the era. His series includes the last TV interview with Franklin McCain, who rose to fame as one of the four Greensboro sit-in demonstrators and who died in January at age 72.
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Ever’s widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, appeared in Charlotte last week for a preview of the series held at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She said her husband believed he was going to be killed because of his activism.
He had taught their children that if they heard gunshots, to crawl on the floor to the bathroom, considered the safest room in the house. When he was shot in the driveway returning home from work, that’s what they did.
“They had been taught to pay attention to noises around us. They were little soldiers,” said Evers-Williams, 80.
“I ran to the front door, knowing full well what I’d find,” she said.
Evers-Williams’ daughter, Reena Evers, was also at the event and said she remembers the day vividly, though she was only 8.
“We were yelling, ‘Mommy, mommy, get down.’ So we ran to get her down at the door. There was dad lying there in a pool of blood with his keys and us yelling, ‘Daddy, daddy, get up!’ ”
Evers-Williams said she burned with resentment for a long time. “I just recall being so angry and so hurt, I just wanted to kill anyone with skin color lighter than mine.” She said she felt a therapeutic cleansing after memorials last year marking the 50th anniversary of that summer.
Crump, who produces documentaries around his day job as a reporter for WBTV (Channel 3), used many of the memorials in his series to provide a parallax view of the times.
“It demonstrates where we were,” Crump said, “how we’ve moved forward as a nation and how the legacy of these individuals is so important.”