WALLINGFORD — Working with faculty from Choate Rosemary Hall, the Wallingford Public Library will hold four screenings and discussions throughout the year, featuring excerpts from documentaries detailing the civil rights movement.
The event, called “Created Equal: America’s Civic Rights Struggle,” consists of showing excerpts from: “The Abolitionists,” “Slavery by Another Name,” “The Loving Story” and “Freedom Riders.” The program is funded by National Endowment for the Humanities.
Wallingford was one of 11 libraries in the state — 473 in the country — chosen by the NEH to host screenings of the documentaries, which “encourage public conversations about the changing meanings of freedom and equality in U.S. history,” according to its website.
The library received a $1,200 grant from National Endowment for the Humanities to run the program, said Library Director Jane Fisher.
A staff member from Choate will lead discussions after each screening. The librar has a longstanding partnership with the school. While applying for the grant, Fisher said it was an opportunity to work with another community organization, so she asked Choate.
“Some other libraries planning this event went out to area universities for speakers, and I thought about that,” Fisher said. “But we have Choate right here. They have some faculty that have a real interest in these topics, so I thought I should start there.”
Fisher is hoping the event draws a large audience, believing “the topic is something our community is really interested in.”
“We tend to get good audiences for these human rights programs that require us to think about history and its impact on us and ways to be a better community by learning from our history,” she said.
Amy Foster, head of history, philosophy, religion and social sciences department at Choate, agreed.
“That’s one of the significant reasons why we study history — to understand our own context and learn and go from there,” Foster said. “The town of Wallingford has its own struggles in this area and it’s important to look back.”
Richard Stewart, who is leading the second screening on “Slavery by Another Name” and is a U.S. history teacher at Choate, added that “understanding the past is vital to understanding the present and what the future might be.”
Due to the length of the documentaries, Fisher said only excerpts will be shown during the screenings. However, if participants want to watch any of the documentaries in its entirety, copies can be rented from the library, she added.
The first screening, on Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. in the Community Room, will include excerpts from “The Abolitionists,” with a discussion led by Emily Brenner, former teacher of world history, U.S. history and American studies.
The second screening, on April 2 at 7 p.m., will feature excerpts from “Slavery by Another Name,” with discussions led by Stewart. The third screening will be on Sept. 24, featuring excerpts from “The Loving Story,” with discussions led by Tom White. The last screening will occur on Oct. 7 and feature excerpts from “Freedom Riders,” with discussions led by Rev. Marc Trister.