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From the 1860s to the 1920s, towns across the U.S. expelled African American residents. Today, these communities remain virtually all white.
Marco Williams is a filmmaker and film educator, best known for Two Towns of Jasper, which won a Peabody Award and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. His directing credits include: The Undocumented (Independent Lens/PBS); Inside the New Black Panthers (National Geographic); Banished (Independent Lens/PBS); Freedom Summer (History… Show more Channel); I Sit Where I Want: The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education (MTV); MLK Boulevard: The Concrete Dream (Discovery Times); Making Peace: Rebuilding our Communities (PBS); The Pursuit of Happiness: With Arianna Huffington (PBS); Without a Pass (PBS); In Search of Our Fathers (Frontline/PBS); and From Harlem to Harvard (The Learning Channel). In addition to the Peabody, Williams’ awards include a Beacon, an Alfred I duPont, a Pan African Film Festival Outstanding Documentary Award, a Full Frame Documentary Festival Spectrum Award, and the National Association of Black Journalists First Place Salute to Excellence Award. Show less
A hundred years ago, in communities across the U.S., white residents forced thousands of black families to flee their homes. Even a century later, these towns remain almost entirely white. Banished tells the story of three of these communities and their black descendants, who return to learn their shocking histories.
In Forsyth County, Georgia, where a thousand black residents were expelled, the film explores the question of land fraudulently taken, and follows some descendants in their quest to uncover the real story of their family's land. In Pierce City, Missouri, a man has designed his own creative form of reparation — he wishes to disinter the remains of his great-grandfather, who was buried there before the banishment. And in Harrison, Arkansas, home to the headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan, a white community struggles with their town's legacy of hate.
By investigating this little-known chapter in American history, Banished also takes a contemporary look at the legacy of racial cleansing. Through conversations with current residents and the descendants of those who were driven out, the film contemplates questions of privilege, responsibility, denial, healing, reparations, and identity.
What can be done to redress past injustices? What is the ongoing impact of the expulsions on families and communities today? In the stories of black families whose land and livelihood were stolen, the film illustrates the limits of the American legal system and the need for creative forms of repair. By introducing these families and the white communities who forced them out, Banished raises the question of responsibility for past wrongs and what is involved in righting them.