Watch the trailer here. Please note that this first-look preview is a rough cut.
September 12, 2023 | GBH’s American Experience
Fifteen years after the US Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional, little more than token steps had been taken to end school segregation in the South. That changed dramatically on October 29, 1969, when the high court ordered that all schools fully—and immediately—desegregate. The Harvest presents a deeply personal and powerful look at one southern town’s struggle to integrate its public schools in the aftermath of that ruling. This feature-length documentary follows the first class to share racially mixed classrooms in Leland, Mississippi, a Delta cotton town steeped in a history of racial intolerance, tracing the lives of classmates, teachers, and parents from the opening day of first grade to high school graduation twelve years later. Many of those students, including the film’s co-director, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas A. Blackmon, say the benefits were enormous. But within two decades, most schools in racially diverse areas were once again deeply segregated. The Harvest captures how the children, their town, and America inherited the deeply mixed legacy of America’s effort to racially integrate public schools.
Sam Pollard is one of America’s most acclaimed documentary filmmakers, with a career as a feature film and television editor, documentary producer/director spanning thirty years. He was the director and producer of Slavery by Another Name, which was his second film chosen by Sundance. His first assignment as a documentary producer came in 1989 for Henry Hampton’s Blackside production Eyes On The Prize II: America at the Racial Crosswords. An Emmy and Peabody Prize winner, Pollard was Co-Executive Producer/Producer of Hampton’s last documentary series I’ll Make Me A World: Stories of African-American Artists and Community. Between 1990 and 2000, Mr. Pollard edited the Spike Lee films: Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Clockers, and Bamboozled. Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lee co-produced Four Little Girls, a feature-length documentary about the 1965 Birmingham church bombings that was nominated for an Academy Award.
Doug Blackmon won the Pulitzer Prize for Slavery by Another Name in 2009, and was part of The Wall Street Journal staff awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for coverage of the 9/11 attacks. He and a team of WSJ reporters were finalists for another Pulitzer in 2011 for coverage of the BP oil spill. Currently, he is a lecturer and director of public programs at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, and executive producer and host of American Forum, a weekly public affairs television program taped at the University of Virginia and broadcast on 100 PBS stations around the U.S. On each Sunday evening in October 2014, special debates produced and organized by Blackmon for American Forum will be broadcast nationally on the PBS World Channel. From 1995 to 2012, he was a reporter, bureau chief and senior national correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, writing about politics, economics, race, war and social transformation from within the U.S. and around the world. Blackmon is also a past contributing editor of The Washington Post.
Mississippi’s Leland High School cheerleaders in the 1979 yearbook. Pamela Pepper is doing a split at the bottom of the photo. Leland School District.