Even if documentaries aren’t your thing, Stories from the Road to Freedom will command your attention. Unlike other documentaries filled with historians and others speaking now on what happened then, Stories from the Road to Freedom has just a narrator as it runs archival footage showing scenes of African American life that include not just sharecroppers, the Ku Klux Klan and civil rights marches, but also the well-to-do out enjoying themselves.
The voices heard are startling. There’s one of a 101-year-old former slave. Born into slavery in Virginia in 1848, thankfully the voice of Fountain Hughes was captured before he passed away. “After freedom you know colored people didn’t have nothing. We didn’t have nowhere to go. We didn’t have no home. We were just turned out like cattle in the pasture . . . . But colored people is free, they ought to be awful thankful. I am thankful to the Lord,” he says.
Then there’s the even more sobering voice of the Mississippi sharecropper H. J. Williams whose assessment of Jim Crow is equally heartbreaking: “It wasn’t complete slavery but it wasn’t much different at that time. And we made it through by the help of God, that’s all.”
Ann S. Pointer of Macon County, Georgia, who worked in white people’s homes, points out the ridiculousness of segregation: “I’m gone make your bread with my hands and I’m good enough to serve you. But you think I ain’t fit to sit beside you. But you can eat out of my hand. That’s the irony in the whole thing.”
Catch the premiere of Stories from the Road to Freedom on the History Channel Saturday, February 16 at 10pm EST. —ronda racha penrice