Eyes on the Prize: America at the Racial Crossroads, 1965-1985
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Eyes on the Prize II


Airing on public television in 1990, as the second half of the landmark 14-part series Eyes on the Prize, Eyes on the Prize: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-1985, explores the tumultuous history of civil rights after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, including the movement of activism from the South into Northern cities, the rise of Black Power and the Black Panthers, the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., civil unrest in cities such as Detroit, tensions over school busing programs, and increasing African American engagement in local and national politics. Both parts of Eyes on the Prize were devoted to telling a version of the civil rights story that was not a standard, simplified narrative.  Instead of summarizing the headlines or two-minute newscasts, Blackside, Inc. sought out the grassroots folks most involved in a given event, action, or culturally historic moment in order to provide a more nuanced version of history, messy and full of conflict and contradictions. In order for an interviewee to be included in the programs, that person had to be an actual participant in the event in question. Prominent scholars had their place as close advisors and consultants to Eyes on the Prize I and Eyes on the Prize II, but they were not to appear on film. To be on camera, the person had to have been part of the history itself. This was to be the most complete and detailed telling of the civil rights story ever attempted, and the ripples from this landmark television event were felt throughout both the academy and popular culture for decades to come. 

All 183 interviews conducted for Eyes on the Prize II constitute a treasure trove of first-hand information about the civil rights movement that can be utilized by students, scholars, and media makers. The interviews include innumerable stories from one of the most complex times in American history, beginning with the rise of Malcolm X and culminating in the election of Chicago's first African American mayor, Harold Washington, in 1983. Interviewees include many of the most significant public figures and activists of the time, including Alex Haley, Ossie Davis, Mary Frances Berry, Amiri Baraka, Mike Wallace, Sonia Sanchez, George Romney, Bobby Seale, Harry Belafonte, and many others, both well-known and less-known.


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National Endowment for the Humanities Grant Project

In 2019, the Film & Media Archive at Washington University in St. Louis was awarded a two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  This grant provided generous funding for the digitization and reassembly of all 183 interviews conducted for Eyes on the Prize II.  The original 16mm film negative was scanned and digitized to create 2K DPX files while the original 1/4" audio reels were digitized to create WAV files.  These preservation level files were reassembled to create intermediate and access mp4 files at the Film & Media Archive.

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Contact the Film & Media Archive

For additional information, or to request licensing, please contact Curator of Film & Media, Andy Uhrich at jauhrich@wustl.edu or 314-935-3301.

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