Traditionally a cotton-belt farming community during the nineteenth and mid-twentieth
century, Fayette County was thrust into the national and international spotlight,
when, in 1959, local African Americans attempted to register and vote. The 1960s
ushered in a period of profound change in Fayette County as African Americans and
those sympathetic to their plight stood up and challenged their second-class citizenship.
John and Viola McFerren emerged as the leaders of that movement, providing sustained
guidance and support to the movement’s efforts. In 1959, the McFerrens and other African
American activists created the organization, The Fayette County Civic and Welfare
League, later renamed The Original Fayette County Civic and Welfare League, to further
their civil rights agenda. The League entered the 1960s with an urgent civil rights
agenda: to increase voter registration; elect responsible government officials; improve
educational and employment opportunities for blacks; and to dismantle racial barriers
for blacks in Fayette County. In an article published on October 12, 1969, The New York Times, described the Fayette County Movement as the “longest sustained civil rights protest
in the nation.”
In 2008, Freedom’s Front Line (2008) received the Director’s Choice Award at the Black
Maria Film Festival, Newark New Jersey.
Freedom’s Front Line production team included Robert Hamburger, executive producer;
Mark Lipman and David Villavert, directors and editor, respectively; Dillard Morrison,
cinematography; and Daphene R. McFerren, film consultant.
Support for this film was provided by The Civil Society Institute (Boston, MA); Hooks
Institute; Sara Lutz (New York, New York); and the Small Change Foundation (San Francisco,
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