We look at “Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power,” a remarkable new documentary that shows how a small rural community in Alabama organized during the civil rights movement to challenge white supremacy and systematic disenfranchisement of Black residents, and would become, in some ways, the first iteration of the Black Panther Party. Lowndes County went from having no registered Black voters in 1960 — despite being 80% Black — to being the birthplace in 1965 of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, a radical political party that brought together grassroots activists and members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Co-directors Sam Pollard and Geeta Gandbhir tell Democracy Now! the Lowndes County story has not gotten the attention it deserves compared to other chapters of the civil rights movement, in part because its lessons are “more threatening” to the political establishment. “It seems like it has been deliberately left out of the narrative of history,” says Gandbhir. We also speak with Reverend Wendell Paris, a former SNCC field secretary featured in the film, who says the organizing in Lowndes County reflected an understanding by residents that “they needed to band together to defend themselves.”
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