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By Phil Hall | October 17, 2012

Filmmakers Anne Lewis and Mimi Pickering rescue the legacy of a forgotten heroine of the civil rights movement: Anne Braden (1924-2006) was a Southern white journalist and social advocate whose challenge to the Jim Crow laws made her an enemy of the segregationist politicians of the 1950s and 1960s.

Braden’s landmark essay “A Letter to White Southern Women” boldly challenged its readers to fight against the prevailing status quo and rethink their racial and gender attitudes. Braden and her husband Carl were indicted for sedition for purchasing a house in a “white” suburb of Louisville, Kentucky, for a black family. (The house was repeatedly attacked and eventually bombed, while the Supreme Court would rule that states could not charge people with sedition.) As the editor of The Southern Patriot newspaper, the far-left Braden was the subject of criticism that crudely questioned her patriotism.

Needless to say, time proved to be her ally. And while Braden was modest in interviews about her work, the film offers input from civil rights icons including Cornel West and Angela Davis on the importance of Braden’s pursuit of social equality in a hostile and violent environment.

Also included in this DVD is the rare 1961 short documentary “Wasn’t That a Time,” which profiles the Bradens and folk singer Pete Seeger in their then-current respective legal fights against federal prosecutors and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Watching these films, it is hard to conceive how the U.S. could have functioned during those tumultuous years.

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