Rural Civil Rights Project

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Founded in 2010, the Rural Civil Right Project is an interdisciplinary oral history project focused on using media production practice, archive preservation and digital mapping as a means to community engagement. Local rural civil rights history, largely undocumented and in risk of being lost, is the topical focus. The goal is to document this untold history with the specific purpose of addressing the legacy of contemporary social conditions. Angela Aguayo is the founder and director the Rural Civil Rights Project, initiating the first program in Carbondale, IL.

Rural Civil Rights Project: Southern Illinois is part of a collaborative media and civic engagement project focusing on the history of segregation and political struggle for civil rights in Carbondale, IL. There are ample resources and primary documents covering the nationally reported history of anti-war struggle in the region. This project seeks to uncover a sparsely documented history of political struggle for racial equality in Carbondale through interviews, the preservation of primary documents, the cataloguing of historical events, identifying important landmarks of history and generating feedback from the community that lived through these experiences. The goal is to use the documentary production process to engage in the historical (re)construction of history and begin a productive community dialogue for building a more equitable future.

Without a clear sense of where we come from, it is difficult to know how to grow. Hence, historical documentary plays an important role in bridging communities through the negotiation of public memory. History is not static but dynamic and growing, as more voices and perspectives become a part of a common narrative. This project is interested in undocumented history and marginalized voices as a way into discussion about contemporary social issues. As time marches on, important aspects of this history in Southern Illinois risk being erased. The significance of this project is immense, bringing together disparate and incomplete archives of this history that have local and national importance.

Rural Civil Rights Project: Southern Illinois includes:

778 Bullets (2011), documentary short, 18 min

Death Work (2013), documentary short, 5min

Gaia House (2013), documentary short, 12 min

Washing the Black Away (2014), audio documentary, 18min

A Dark Red Line (2015), audio documentary, 12 min

In 2014, the Rural Civil Rights Program has grown into a multi-site project. Last year, Kassi Abney developed the Rural Civil Rights Project: Martin, TN. With her documentary, “More Black Than White,” Abney has engaged in community screenings of her documentary about the desegregation of the local education system, decades after Brown v. Board of Education.

For more background: Voices of Southern Illinois

Here is how one of our projects is resonating with our local community:

News Coverage:

778 Bullets Raises Broad Discussion About Race

Project Explores Region’s Civil Rights History

Discussion Dispels Myths of Black Panthers

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