The New York Times isn't necessarily prone to throwing out accolades like candy at a parade, so when the Times called Eyes on the Prize "the most ambitious documentary undertaken by black filmmakers," you have to think it was pretty well deserved.
Produced by WUSTL alum Henry Hampton (1940-1998), the 14-hour series won more than 23 awards, including two Emmys, an Oscar nomination, a Peabody and the Edward R. Murrow Brotherhood Award for Best National Documentary. The first six programs, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965), aired in 1987; the eight-part sequel, Eyes on the Prize II, was broadcast in 1990.
Now, PBS will rebroadcast the first six hours of the series in October. Two episodes will be shown on each of three consecutive Monday nights (Oct. 2, 9 and 16), from 9-11 p.m.
In conjunction with the rebroadcast of the documentary, University Libraries is hosting the exhibition "Eyes on the Prize I and II: Documenting the Civil Rights Movement" through Dec. 21 in the Grand Staircase Lobby of Olin Library.
The exhibition focuses on the creation of Eyes on the Prize, from Hampton's early efforts to its highly successful premiere broadcast on PBS 20 years ago, and the influence the series still has today.
Materials from the Libraries' Film & Media Archive, including scripts, transcripts, photos and books, will be on view.
The Film & Media Archive holds all the materials assembled and used by Hampton's film production company, Blackside Inc., in producing Eyes on the Prize and more than 40 other major films focusing on democracy, social justice and the African-American experience in America.
This archive of materials, the Henry Hampton Collection, was entrusted to the University Libraries in 2001.
"We felt the collection was something we should highlight because of the national exposure from the rebroadcast on PBS," Film & Media Archivist David Rowntree said. "It is an opportunity to highlight the collection and materials that we have at the University.
"Eyes on the Prize is just a small part of the collection. The idea was to show the story behind the story and highlight the different materials that were used in the making of the series."
Through contemporary interviews and historical footage, Eyes on the Prize traces the civil rights movement from the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 to the Voting Rights Act of 1965; from early acts of individual courage through the flowering of a mass movement and its eventual split into factions.
Civil rights activist Julian Bond narrates.
It tells human stories of the movement for social change in the words of both famous and less-known participants, including George Wallace, Ralph Abernathy and Kwame Ture, also known as Stokely Carmichael.
Hampton was the driving force behind the series. A participant in many civil rights landmark events — including the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery — Hampton set out to share his vision of what he called "the remarkable human drama that was the civil rights movement" through the documentary and a book of the same title by Juan Williams.
A native St. Louisan, Hampton earned a bachelor of arts degree from WUSTL in 1961.