Divides in the historically segregated city of Athens, Georgia deepen when a Confederate-flag-flying fraternity arrives.
Editor’s note: This film is no longer available to view online.
In Athens, Georgia, 30-year-old Hope Iglehart is working to protect her African American neighbourhood from encroachment by a white fraternity – one known to fly a Confederate flag and hold antebellum-themed events.
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The Reese Street community is home to the historic Hill First Baptist Church and century-old African American houses and businesses.
But the University of Georgia fraternity, with architecture identical to a plantation house, is an affront to this heritage and history. The fraternity also bought land on which two historic houses stood and oversaw their demolition.
The film Old South looks at the history of racism and segregation in the United States and how it plays out today.
By Danielle Beverly
When I was in sixth grade, my white family moved to Indiana, located in the middle of the US.
Our home straddled the dividing line between the city of Gary, which was almost entirely African American, and the town of Merrillville, where white residents fought continuously to keep African American people out.
I had never heard the “n” word before in my life, but suddenly, at the age of 11, I heard it every day in school even though no African Americans were enrolled or even lived in the town.
Jump to 30 years later, as I toured my first feature documentary across the South as part of a tour of independent filmmakers, I witnessed poor, rural, racially segregated Southern towns.
One image stuck out: the infant “onesies” emblazoned with a confederate flag being hawked at a “Heritage Celebration” in a tiny South Carolina town. Instead of love and understanding, hate and divisiveness were being passed down.
I vowed to make my next documentary in the American South – a complicated, contested space for centuries.
To make Old South, I moved into the community of Athens, Georgia. I filmed for several years, to be on the ground and to capture the unfolding struggle, as two communities – one Black, one white – sought to navigate each other while striving to preserve their own legacies.
As you, the audience, are watching this film in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, the US and the world are in a moment of real reckoning. Confederate statues are being toppled across the American South, and similar colonialist or white supremacist monuments are being tossed into rivers in Europe and beyond.
Old South invites you to consider the following questions: What is the role of white people in dismantling racism? Do they step forward, or do they step back? Can a white person hold one view of race and be blind to their whiteness, then change over time? What does legacy mean, and to whom?
I have chosen to make a documentary that does not directly confront, but rather invites audiences to ask themselves questions, sometimes difficult ones. My hope is that conversations occur after the theatre lights go up, or the TV turns off.