“An Interview: Eyes in the Prize as Documentary and Document,” Judy Richardson, SNCC Veteran, Documentary Filmmaker
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Judy Richardson’s Civil Rights Movement experiences have influenced her throughout her life, from her work in film -- including the 14-hour PBS series Eyes on the Prize -- to her work in education. She has, therefore, had the privilege of both living and interpreting this important history. Judy Richardson’s was on the staff of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the South, from 1963 to 1966: in SNCC’s national office in Atlanta; in Mississippi during “Freedom Summer”; in Southwest Georgia; and in Lowndes County, Alabama. In 1965 she left SNCC’s Lowndes County project to become the office manager for the successful, first campaign of Julian Bond (then SNCC’s Press Director, later Chair of the NAACP) for the Georgia House of Representatives.
In 1978 she began her first stint with Blackside, Inc., and entered the world of film. She worked on all 14 hours of Blackside’s seminal PBS series, Eyes on the Prize (winner of an Academy Award nomination, six Emmys, the top broadcast journalism awards, and many other honors). She was Series Associate Producer for the second series, content advisor and researcher for the first series, and Education Director for the full series. Also for Blackside, Ms. Richardson co-produced the 2-1/2 hour documentary, Malcolm X: Make It Plain in 1994, and Hopes on the Horizon on African liberation movements.
In 2001 she became a Senior Producer with Northern Light Productions (Boston). With Bestor Cram, the company’s founder, she produced/directed the one-hour PBS documentary Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968, about the fatal shootings of three Black students on the campus of South Carolina State College, an HBCU in Orangeburg, S.C., during a protest against a segregated bowling alley.
Her other Northern Light productions include: Slave Catchers, Slave Resisters, a two-hour special for the History Channel on the slave policing system and slave resistance; two videos for the New-York Historical Society’s “Slavery in New York” exhibit; and From Slavery to Freedom, an overview of the history of slavery in the U.S. for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati). She also wrote and produced A Fragile Freedom: African American Historic Sites, a one-hour documentary for The History Channel; and museum orientation films for the Paul Laurence Dunbar historic site (Dayton) and the Museum of African American History (Boston).
She and five other female SNCC activists co-edited Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC. Published by University of Illinois Press, the anthology includes the memoirs of 52 courageous women on the front lines of the 1960’s Southern Civil Rights Movement.