The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 14, 2013

GVT to celebrate Black History Month

— In celebration of Black History Month, Greenbrier Valley Theatre will present two civil rights documentaries. Tuesday, GVT will show “Of Civil Wrongs & Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story.” On Wednesday, “Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders” will be screened.

Both programs will begin at 7:30 p.m. and run 60 minutes. They are free and open to the public.

Tuesday’s film recounts the life of Californian Fred Korematsu and his lifelong pursuit of justice. When Executive Order 9066 sent 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent to internment camps, Korematsu, a shipyard welder, refused to go. For three months, he evaded notice, but on May 30, 1942, he was arrested, sent to processing and confined to Topaz internment camp in Utah.

Although Korematsu’s initial lawsuit, claiming his constitutional rights had been violated by way of racial discrimination, did not conclude in his favor, Korematsu persisted in appealing to the judicial system. Nearly 40 years later, Korematsu and his legal team, led by law professor Peter Irons, saw victory: a federal judge reversed his conviction and acknowledged the “great wrong” perpetrated against him.

In 1998, Korematsu’s efforts were further recognized when he was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Standing on My Sisters’ Shoulders” introduces the courageous women of the Civil Rights movement in 1950s and ‘60s Mississippi. These women, including Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, Unita Blackwell, Mae Bertha Carter and Victoria Gray Adams, fought for voting and education rights — challenging even President Johnson and the Democratic Party at the 1964 convention.

Their moving interviews, combined with archival footage, offer a striking testimony of the power of a few persistent citizens to effect great and lasting change.