Banished
(Award of Commendation, 2008)
Marco Williams
84 min, 2007

 

Banished vividly recovers the forgotten history of racial cleansing in America, when thousands of African Americans were driven from their homes and communities by violent, racist mobs. The film places these events in the context of present day race relations by following three cases where black and white citizens warily explore if there is common ground for reconciliation over these expulsions. Banished raises the question: will the United States make meaningful reparations for the human rights abuses suffered, then and now, against its African American citizens? Can reconciliation between the races be possible without them?

Between 1860 and 1920 hundreds of U.S. counties expelled their black residents. The pattern was depressingly similar in almost all cases. The counties tended to have small, defenseless black populations. Few black property owners had time to sell their properties nor dared return to repossess them. Whites could then illegally assume ownership of them. African Americans not only lost their homes, farms and businesses, but saw their communities and families dispersed and their very right to exist violated. Banished presents a fascinating story through newspaper archives, registries of deeds, photos from family albums and stories from grandparents and great-grandparents who lived through these traumatic events to reconstruct a dramatic record of the expulsions. The film features families determined to reconstruct their families' past and gain some justice for their ancestors and themselves. It interviews local journalists, who braved community opposition, to research the banishments and force their readers to confront their towns' past and present.

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