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The award-winning documentary “Standing On My Sisters’ Shoulders” takes on the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi in the 1950’s and 60’s from the point of view of the courageous women who lived it – and emerged as its grassroots leaders. These women stood up and fought for the right to vote and the right to an equal education. They not only brought about change in Mississippi, but they altered the course of American history.

The Civil Rights movement brought forth many heroes, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks, who have been made famous by their commitment to the cause. Yet most of us have never heard of Fannie Lou Hamer, Annie Devine, Unita Blackwell, Mae Bertha Carter, or Victoria Gray Adams. But without the efforts of these women, the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi would not have been possible. In a state where lynching of black males was the highest in the nation, a unique opportunity for women emerged to become activists in the movement. This is their story of commitment, bravery and leadership in the face of a hostile and violent segregated society.

This documentary presents original interviews with many of the Civil Rights movement’s most remarkable women: Unita Blackwell, a sharecropper turned activist, who became Mississippi’s first female black mayor; Mae Bertha Carter, a mother of 13, whose children became the first to integrate the Drew County schools against dangerous opposition; white student activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland who not only participated in sit-ins but took a stand on integration by attending an all black university; Annie Devine and Victoria Gray Adams, who, along with Fannie Lou Hamer, stepped up and challenged the Democratic Party and President Johnson at the 1964 Convention.

In the name of freedom and equal rights, these women bravely faced great adversity and risked their physical safety, their jobs, and even their lives. When asked how they did it, one activist said, “I was standing on my sisters’ shoulders.”
"When you see these people coming with guns to defend, to keep us down from this, registering to vote--this vote must really be about something.

And I said, 'If I die, I die for something."


Mayor Unita Blackwell
(1st Black Woman Mayor
in Mississippi)


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This program is made possible in part by the Mississippi Humanities Council under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities
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