Looking back on civil rights documentary ‘Eyes on the Prize’— and its implications today | St. Louis Public Radio

Looking back on civil rights documentary ‘Eyes on the Prize’— and its implications today

May 6, 2016

The original DVD cover for "Eyes on the Prize."
Credit PBS

When it premiered in 1987, the 14-hour documentary series “Eyes on the Prize” was the definitive story of the civil rights movement from 1954 to the mid-1980s.

Nearly 30 years later, the documentary series is making a resurgence due, in part, to the efforts of Judi Hampton, whose late brother, Henry Hampton, produced “Eyes on the Prize.” The Hamptons grew up in St. Louis and Judi Hampton continues to live in the area part time.

Beginning Friday night, the documentary will be simulcast on Nine PBS and in the Public Media Commons in Grand Center. The weekend’s events also include spoken word and local choir performances.

Rights issues have caused the documentary to go largely unseen for the last three decades. Judi Hampton is president of Blackside Productions, the company working to revive the seminal work.

“‘Eyes on the Prize’ is about personal sacrifice, leadership and grassroots,” Hampton said. “I’m very concerned that the younger people coming up don’t understand how relevant it is today.”

Hampton’s experience growing up is somewhat unique.

“My dad and mom insisted that we, even before Brown v. Board, that we go to a school nearby that happened to be Caucasian and get our education there. My dad said, ‘learn the real world,’ because you’re not always going to be living with people of your own background.”

As to what young people can do to become engaged in civil rights issues now, Hampton said three components are necessary. “They need to make a personal sacrifice of some kind — a risk, they need to develop as leaders if that’s something they want to do, and they need to get the grassroots going,” she said.

Although she could not share details, Hampton said there is a project afoot to produce an update of “Eyes on the Prize.”

Eyes on the Prize - 01- Awakenings, 1954-1956 (PBS) from NetNZ on Vimeo.

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