The new, documentary film “Freedom Lost: Restoration" explores an often forgotten piece of history about life for African Americans in New Bern and James City in the time surrounding the Civil War. The free screening takes place at 6pm Wednesday, February 27th at Craven Community College's Orringer Auditorium.
We wrap up our Black History Month series this week with an often forgotten piece of history about life for African Americans in New Bern and James City in the time surrounding the Civil War. Next Wednesday, Film maker Tom Swift is premiering his documentary “Freedom Lost: Restoration.” Through interviews and Swifts own reading, he tells of a time when African Americans had certain freedoms, like the right to vote. He tells how those freedoms were lost when union troops departed, and with the advent of the Jim Crow laws. Stephen O’Connell spoke with Swift this week.
In doing your research for the film you did several interviews with local historians, but you also drew inspiration from the book James City: A Black Community in North Carolina. How did that book influence your movie?
"The James City book more covers James City than the city of New Bern. My film goes into the history of New Bern a little bit more in detail, talking about what life was like before the Civil War; although its brief, it gives a good overview I believe, you know, it basically fills up a context to, that were a number of freedoms the African Americans did have in New Bern before the Civil War, like having the right to vote for example in North Carolina before the civil war was pretty amazing for an African American who was free."
As you explained in the movie there were African Americans living in New Bern and James City before the Civil War that were free, and had some rights. Do you think the freedoms they had before the Civil War are comparable to the ones they have now?
"I do not believe that the opportunities they had then are comparable to what they have today, however there was a substantial amount of freedom that was coming from you know getting an amendment to the constitution where they have certain rights being added, and yet there’s being a backlash in the South, and the federal government leaving the area that was occupied and so there’s no protection, and you have the Jim Crow laws and such. And then restoration comes as things are transforming today, with the civil rights movement and things of that nature making a bigger impact on the freedoms that they have today."
Did any of the historians you spoke with have personal ties to New Bern or James City history?
"Bernard George, you know his family grew up here. As he says in the film later on, when he talks about the Great Fire of New Bern, he says his father remembered it, you know, and his family comes from this area so he has a real connection to this area as far as having grown up here and his father growing up here. So for him he knows the history but it’s also about his personal life being a part of that history, and getting that out to the community, so that adds to the type of life he lived."
I'm speaking with Tom Swift, he's the director of the documentary "Freedom Lost: Restoration." Thanks for speaking with me.
"Thank you so much."
The free film premiers at Craven Community College Wednesday, February 27th. For more information, go to publicradioeast.org.
Click here for more information onthe film: www.forgottenblackhistory.com