"Something is happening in Memphis. Something is happening in our world."
Dr. Martin Luther King (1968)
Once More At The River: From MLK to BLM is a one-hour documentary film guided by oral history interviews of more than 20 Memphis-based activists and officials. The majority of the interviews were conducted by University of Memphis students in 2018, as the city celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated there a half century earlier.
From the 1960s picket signs to today's hashtags, the interviewees reflect on the past fifty years in Memphis, discussing the impact of both activism and the city's history on the lives of African Americans today. They tell us the story of activism in the city from the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter, from Dr. King’s assassination to MLK50 (the 50th anniversary of his death). They explain how Memphis compares to the rest of the US, and what to look forward to in the future of the nation.
The project was guided by three faculty leaders (Roxane Coche, Aram Goudsouzian and Joe Hayden), but it was executed through the involvement of undergraduate students at the University of Memphis. During the 2017-2018 academic year, a two-course sequence in History and Journalism was created:
The Fall 2017 course in History, Memphis and the Movement, provided students with the deep, necessary historical context to ask the right questions and find the best answers. It provided a long history of politics and race in Memphis, offered an intensive investigation of the sanitation strike that brought King to the city, and considered racial progress and problems in Memphis since 1968.
In Spring 2018, students took a course in journalism: Reporting Social Justice, which provided an intensive training period in oral history interviewing techniques. The staff of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis helped us identify sources to interview, and students conducted filmed interviews with activists young and old: those involved in the civil rights battles of the 1960s as well as those engaged in such campaigns today. Students were paired up in teams to interview more than a dozen activists by the end of the semester.
These one-on-one sessions between students and activists constitute the heart of the Once More at the River project, generating content for a documentary, this website, and a repository archived in the National Civil Rights Museum and at the Special Collections Department of the University of Memphis.
This project was completed thanks to support (financial or otherwise) from various departments and entities at the University of Memphis, and funding from Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The findings and conclusions of the project do not necessarily represent the views of any of our sponsors:
At the University of Memphis, the Division of Research and Innovation, the Benjamin Hooks Institute for Social Change, the Department of Journalism and Strategic Media and the Department of History played key roles toward the completion of this project.