By Maddie Peare, a Summer 2012 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern
On Thursday, August 9 at 10:00 p.m., PBS will be showing the 2012 Oscar-nominated short film, “The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement,” which tells the story of Alabama barber and civil rights veteran, James Armstrong. Throughout his life, Armstrong was a champion and advocate for civil rights and lived by the words, “The worst thing a man can do is nothing.”
The story begins by detailing Armstrong’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. He was the original flag bearer during the “Bloody Sunday” march from Selma to Montgomery, calling for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Armstrong also ran a voter education program in his barbershop for half a century. He said, “If you want a voice, you have to vote; you can’t complain about nothing if you don’t vote.”
Armstrong strongly believed in the power of education and his two sons were the first to integrate into an all-White elementary school, despite threats to his life and home. He lived long enough to realize his dream when Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president in 2008.
The film illuminates the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the fight for the right of people of color to vote and charges the next generation with preserving that right in the face of modern voter suppression. Watch the trailer below and catch the entirety of this inspirational documentary on PBS at 10:00 p.m. EST, Thursday August 9.