King's 'Passage at St. Augustine' planned at civil rights institute

Clennon L. King

ALBANY — The Albany Civil Rights Institute will present an award-winning documentary Tuesday that features multiple black Albany residents who fought on the front lines of the bloodiest campaign of the civil rights movement.

The ACRI will present the hourlong documentary "Passage at St. Augustine: The 1964 That Transformed America" starting at 6:30 p.m. at the 326 Whitney Ave. venue. The program features the filmmaker, Clennon L. King, and is free and open to the public.

"We are honored to celebrate so many black Albanians who were a part of making this film," Albany Civil Rights Institute Executive Director Frank Wilson said. "This film shows the key role several black Southwest Georgians made in the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of '64, outlawing Jim Crow segregation on the books from coast to coast."

The film was written, directed and edited by King, an Albany native who now lives Boston. He is the youngest son of late civil rights attorney C. B. King, the first African American for whom a Southern federal courthouse is named. That building is located in downtown Albany. The elder King represented scores of civil rights demonstrators during the historic Albany Movement, including Martin Luther King Jr.

Among the former Albany residents featured in the film are Mimi Ford Jones, now also of Boston, and J.T. Johnson of Atlanta. Johnson and Jones will join the filmmaker after the screening for an audience questionand-answer session.

In June of 1964, both Johnson and the then-17-year-old Jones were among seven demonstrators who jumped into a whites-only motel pool in St. Augustine, Fla., prompting the owner to pour muriatic acid in the water.

The two, along with others, boarded a bus in Albany bound for St. Augustine, under the leadership of the late Samuel Wells. Wells, who was working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, went at the invitation of Martin Luther King.

In archival footage, "Passage at St. Augustine" features more than 45 voices that help to tell the story of this littleknown, but pivotal, civil rights campaign. Those voices include foot soldiers and field lieutenants, segregationists, White House insiders, clergy, Klansmen, correspondents, law enforcement officers and politicians.

"While LBJ and MLK are also featured prominently, audiences invariably come away asking why a campaign so pivotal appears to have been wiped from the hard drive of history," Clennon King said. "I wanted to capture and chronicle their stories while they were still here," noting nearly a third of those interviewed are now deceased.

Also featured in the documentary is Albany civil rights veteran Rutha Harris, who contributed to the film's musical score.

The filmmaker's brother, Chevene B. King Jr., of Albany, and his first cousin, photographer Paul C. King, filmed several on-camera interviews, helping produce the film.

Thirteen years in the making, the film premiered in February 2015 before the League of Women Voters in Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Since then, Clennon King has presented it at multiple institutions across the country, including Dartmouth College, Brandeis University, the African Burial Ground of New York City, the University of Texas at Austin, and multiple other campuses, including four in Florida, where the campaign unfolded.

The film earned The Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking at the 2015 Roxbury International Film Festival.

Go to https://vimeo.com/220072290 to see a film trailer.

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