First grade can be a scary thing, even without the burden of making history.
In October 1961, 13 African American first graders took courageous steps to enter
four formerly all-white elementary schools and break the practice of segregation in
Memphis City Schools. A half-century later, the stories of these pioneering children
form the foundation of the documentary, The Memphis 13 (2011). The film uncovers a hidden story of the Civil Rights Movement and honors
the children who lived it while raising contemporary questions about children breaking
The film, which was initiated thanks to a faculty research grant from the Hooks Institute,
features interviews with all 13 pioneering families, as well as with white students,
a teacher, and local civil rights leaders.
University of Memphis law professor Daniel Kiel is the writer and director of The
Memphis 13 and filmmakers Jane Folk and David Kiern served as producers. The film
is narrated by Mayor A.C. Wharton of Memphis and premiered at the National Civil Rights
Museum on the 50th anniversary of the students' historic steps. The film has screened
for audiences locally and across the country, including being selected for the Little
Rock Civil Rights Film Festival and San Diego Black Film Festival and being featured
in programs at Harvard Law School, Howard Law School, and other academic institutions.
Additional support for the film was provided by First Tennessee and the Assisi Foundation
To see a trailer of the documentaries and to read more, click below