For executive producer Dr. Betsy Brinson, the documentary Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky is just one part of an ambitious undertaking: collecting and preserving the stories of Kentuckians who were part of the states civil rights history.
For nearly four years, she and others involved in the project have traveled the state collecting the 175 interviews that were used in the documentary and that will be preserved by the Kentucky Historical Society for future generations.
There is very little written documentation of the civil rights movement in Kentucky, says Brinson. It was really important to collect the stories of the people who were part of it. Once theyre gone, the opportunity is lost.
A native of North Carolina, Brinson moved to Kentucky at an opportune time, she says. In 1998, the Oral History Commission initiated the Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky Oral History Project. She is the projects director.
Brinson has her own experiences with the civil rights movement in North Carolina, and she is a historian of social movements. But as the project progressed, she was surprised to see her own stereotypes of Kentucky shattered. I didnt know Kentucky, she says. I was surprised at the violence that went on here.
Kentuckys part in the civil rights movement is interesting because its a border state, she continues. Though voting was not an issue, it was a true segregated society in terms of schools, jobs, public accommodations, etc.
Finding people to tell their stories was done mostly by word-of-mouth, says Brinson. People I had not expected to be willing to work with me thought it was important that these stories be told.
Of the 175 people interviewed, 15 are included in the documentary. The vivid recollections of the men and women presented in the program clearly illustrate the depth of commitment of Kentuckians to social justice here and in the nation, Brinson says.