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WIU Awarded NEH Grant to Encourage Discussion of U.S. Civil Rights History

September 19, 2013

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MACOMB, IL — Thanks to faculty and personnel in the Western Illinois University Libraries, Department of African American Studies and Department of History, Western Illinois University is one of only 473 institutions across the country awarded a set of four films, which chronicle the history of the civil rights movement, by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

The NEH National Film Project, "Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle," is one that uses the power of documentary films to encourage community discussion about America's civil rights history. (NEH has partnered with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to develop programmatic and support materials for the 473 sites/institutions awarded.) The documentaries, "The Abolitionists"; "Slavery by Another Name"; "Freedom Riders"; and "The Loving Story," include scenes from incidents in the 150-year effort to achieve equal rights for all. "Freedom Riders" garnered a 2012 Emmy Award, and "The Loving Story" and "The Abolitionists" have been nominated for Emmy Awards in 2013.

"These films encompass just a few of the multifaceted narratives from the civil rights movement," said F. Erik Brooks, chair of the African American studies department and co-scholar for the grant. "Having spent my formative years growing up in Montgomery, Alabama, the civil rights movement has always been a part of my core and conversation. Hopefully, these powerful and provocative films will be a catalyst for conversations about civil rights in the United States. Western Illinois University is very fortunate to receive this NEH grant to show these films to help us remember, refresh and renew our commitment and understanding of the struggle for equal rights in America."

Peter Cole, a professor in the history department and co-scholar for the grant*, noted what an honor it is that WIU received this award to promote greater understanding of the civil rights movement in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

"These films remind us the fight for equality was neither quick nor easy. In truly is impressive that well-organized groups of African Americans (and allies in other communities) overcame the massive and hateful resistance of some white Americans and serves as a blueprint for how other groups of people can organize to improve their lives and society at large," Cole added.

Each of the films was produced with NEH support, and each tells stories of individuals who challenged the social and legal status quo of deeply rooted institutions, from slavery to segregation.

For more information about the NEH initiative, visit For more information about WIU's receipt of the award, contact Tammy Sayles, marketing and outreach librarian, at (309) 298-3298 or via email at

The Created Equal film set is made possible through a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of its Bridging Cultures initiative, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

* Tim Roberts, an associate professor in the history department, served as co-scholar for the grant prior to his departure to China this past summer to serve as a Fulbright Scholar for the 2013-14 academic year.

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