The award-winning documentary “Standing On My Sisters’ Shoulders” takes on the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi in the 1950’s and 60’s from the point of view of the courageous women who lived it – and emerged as its grassroots leaders. These women stood up and fought for the right to vote and the right to an equal education. They not only brought about change in Mississippi, but they altered the course of American history.
The Civil Rights movement brought forth many heroes, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks, who have been made famous by their commitment to the cause. Yet most of us have never heard of Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, Unita Blackwell, Mae Bertha Carter, or Victoria Gray Adams. But without the efforts of these women, the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi would not have been possible. In a state where lynching of black males was the highest in the nation, a unique opportunity for women emerged to become activists in the movement. This is their story of commitment, bravery and leadership in the face of a hostile and violent segregated society.
This documentary presents original interviews with many of the Civil Rights movement’s most remarkable women: Unita Blackwell, a sharecropper turned activist, who became Mississippi’s first female black mayor; Mae Bertha Carter, a mother of 13, whose children became the first to integrate the Drew County schools against dangerous opposition; white student activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland who not only participated in sit-ins but took a stand on integration by attending an all black university; Annie Devine and Victoria Gray Adams, who, along with Fannie Lou Hamer, stepped up and challenged the Democratic Party and President Johnson at the 1964 Convention.
In the name of freedom and equal rights, these women bravely faced great adversity and risked their physical safety, their jobs, and even their lives. When asked how they did it, one activist said, “I was standing on my sisters’ shoulders.”
I had to re-title this post, based upon the blunders those behind The Help movie are making. See item 12
1. Denigration of several African American male characters
2. Indefensible dialogue and scenes (naked pervert, Aibileen and the roach scene, etc.)
3. Error in the death of Medgar Evers by a primary character (Skeeter, Pg 277)
4. Elevation of the white males who practiced segregation while downgrading black males.
5. Aibileen’s indifference to Minny and her children’s abuse while worrying over Mae Mobley’s abuse
6. The bossy maid stereotype overshadowing a character who is a victim of domestic violence (Minny).
7. Stereotypical characters, both black and white.
8. Depiction of Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 as ruled by women, specifically a twenty-four year old socialite named Hilly
9. Over the top descriptions of black characters from their dark skin tones to their physical attributes.
10. Black characters and white characters differenced by their supposed southern “dialect”.
11. A difference is made in the portrayal of the littlest characters in the novel, that being Mae Mobley and Kindra.
12. The marketing mis-steps over promoting the movie. Insensitive statements, questionable tie-ins, to WTF? interview quotes.
Based on these, as well as other problems in the novel, blog posts on this site explore what went wrong. In addition, I need to add something else. It’s one thing when an author creates a bigoted character, and has that character act out in prejudice. It’s quite another when the author’s own bias, either based upon what they’d been taught or wrongly assumed about another culture seeps into their book.
The problem with The Help is that imo, both of these issues occurred. Stockett plays omnipresent narrator several times to either inform the reader about who’s good, or who’s not. And segregationist ideology on African Americans comes out of the mouths and inner thoughts of the black characters as amusing anecdotes.