Sometimes movies can illustrate thoughts, emotions and historical events in more powerful or meaningful ways than other forms of communication — which is the idea behind an upcoming free series in Mount Airy.
On all four Saturday afternoons during February, feature-length films centered on the African-American experience will be screened in the conference room at L.H. Jones Family Resource Center on Jones School Road in recognition of Black History Month.
The series — titled “Documentaries About Life Experiences of African-Americans” — includes “Marshall” on Feb. 3; “Loving” on Feb. 10; “Selma” on Feb. 17; and “Glory,” Feb. 24.
Admission to the movies is free and open to the public, with free popcorn also to be available.
Doors open at 12:30 pm., with each move to begin promptly at 1 pm. The capacity for the room is 90 people, so if there is an overflow of viewers, the movie will be shown again at 4 p.m.
The film series is the result of a partnership between the Surry County Senior Center/Jones Family Resource Center and the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County.
It is the first such observance to be planned locally in conjunction with Black History Month.
“We’re really excited — I don’t know why we didn’t think of this earlier,” said Dr. Evelyn Thompson, who conceived the idea for the movie series that was developed with the help of Jane Surratt, manager of the Surry County Senior Center.
“The objective of this event is to inform and educate all people about the experiences that shape the lives of people of color in American society,” Surratt explained. “There will be a brief time for discussion after each movie.”
The senior center manager also referred to “hurt and indignation” surfacing in the nation recently in regard to racial issues, and her belief that events such as the movie series can make a difference. “Anything that we can do to mend this broken and divisive environment can only help right now.”
Thompson agreed that the films to be shown can promote bringing people together.
“My life and experience has been, the more we know about each other,” the better, she said Friday, “particularly when we grew up in different cultures.”
Each of the four movies, all running about two hours, depicts different aspects of African-American history:
• “Marshall” (2017), which will kick off the series next Saturday, is the true story of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall. It is set in the 1940s when Marshall was an attorney for the NAACP and crusaded for blacks who had been wrongly charged with crimes. In the movie, Marshall defends a black man against sexual assault and attempted murder charges by a wealthy socialite.
• “Loving,” from 2016, to be shown on Feb. 10, details the story and struggle of an interracial couple in the 1950s and 1960s in Virginia, where mixed-raced marriages were illegal at that time.
• “Selma” (2014), the Feb. 17 entry, centers on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he leads his followers on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Their efforts led to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
• “Glory,” from 1989, to be shown on Feb. 24, is set during the Civil War, after the Battle of Antietam, when Union Col. Robert Gould Shaw assembled the first all-African-American regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. It ends up in the thick of the fighting.
“I believe that everyone in Surry County would be interested in attending this movie event,” Surratt added, regarding the upcoming series.
The conference room at Jones Family Resource Center is said to be well-suited to movie presentations, including a large screen that drops from the ceiling.
“We just need to provide the DVDs and laptop,” said Thompson, who hopes to spearhead periodic film presentations in the future to highlight observances other than Black History Month.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.