Caltech Public Programming presents a new film series, Movies That Matter, starting with the documentary “100 Years From Mississippi”
Free, one-time-only virtual screening and panel discussion Friday, February 11, 2022, at 7:30 p.m. PST Part of Caltech’s observance of Black History Month.
Movies That Matter is a new film series curated and presented in a collaborative partnership between Caltech Public Programming, the Caltech Center for Inclusion and Diversity, and the student-led Caltech Y. The films in this series address current concerns in various realms of science as well as important matters of social justice. Movies That Matter launches with a virtual screening of the 2021 award-winning documentary “100 Years From Mississippi” directed by Tarabu Betserai Kirkland on Friday, February 11, at 7:30 p.m.
The virtual screening is followed by a panel discussion of the film and its impact, featuring the director, Barry Shabaka Henley; one of the film’s producers; and Danielle L. Wiggins, Caltech assistant professor of history in the Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
“100 Years From Mississippi” tells the true story of one family’s flight from Ellisville, Mississippi under threat of lynching in the early 20th century and the aftermath 100 years after the events, all seen from the point of view of the family's young daughter.
Mamie Lang Kirkland was seven years old when she fled Ellisville, Mississippi in 1915 with her mother and siblings as her father and his friend, John Hartfield, escaped an approaching lynch mob. John Hartfield returned to Mississippi in 1919 and was killed in one of the most horrific lynchings of the era.
Mamie's son, Tarabu, had grown up hearing stories of John Hartfield, but didn't know if his mother's stories were fact or folklore until one day in 2015, when Tarabu discovered an article describing Hartfield's murder before a crowd of 10,000 spectators.
For over 100 years, Mamie vowed never to return to Mississippi. After Tarabu made his remarkable find, he urged his mother to finally confront her childhood trauma by returning to Ellisville. Mamie was 107 when they began the journey to connect her story to the larger impact of America's legacy of racial violence, which echoes today from Ferguson to New York, Atlanta to Los Angeles.
Like many of the 6 million African Americans who left the Deep South during that period, Mamie's story is a testament to the courage and hope of her generation. Her indomitable will and contagious joy of living is exceeded only by her ability to tell her story now, 111 years later.