The Clinton 12 is a documentary film by Keith McDaniel and voiced by James Earl Jones. The film is about 12 black teenagers who stood up against racial hate and discrimination in a time of racial segregation in educational institutions. The film focuses on their struggles with racism, as well as the bravery of a community that struggled to advocate the law.
In 1956 the United States supreme decided that separation of races in schools was undemocratic, in the case of brown versus the board of education. Before in 1956, African Americans in Clinton were not allowed to attend school in the state and instead had to attend schools which were 18 miles away in Knoxville, Tennessee. The court reached a verdict that African Americans had equal rights to white peoples and therefore should attend the same schools.
The school made history as the first public high school to integrate mixed races in the south. The reactions were initially positive with African Americans finding delight in the level of equality. However, their joy was short-lived when Demonstrators started to march in the streets. The twelve students faced a major backlash from the public when they decided to bravely enroll in a new school Clinton High school.as they were fairly cautious of the new environment, they would all meet up and walk to school together. Treatment of this students was harsh and demonstrations were held against the court ruling demanding that it be reversed.
The White students began staying away from school. The community of Clinton saw the courts order as disrespectful and even threatened to blow up the courthouse. On the third day of school, protesters pursued down one of the twelve African Americans Bobby Cain who was a senior and beat him down with sticks and their placards (Lawrence, 2015, p.32). White supremacist arrived in the town and made matters worse. The students were threatened with knives and ropes by their fellow white students. Eventually, they decided it was far too dangerous and decided to boycott school as well
Among the people who stood out most in the film was Baptist minister turner who recognized that it was wrong to be biased and bigoted toward other races.it took the efforts of Baptist minister turner to convince them that they had to stand up for their democratic rights, he gathered the twelve and together they would march a quarter mile back to the school. They were followed by angry mobs who shouted and jeered at them.in the school however they were met with mixed reactions from the students. (Lawrence, 2015, p.31) Some welcomed them back while others continued to threaten them. The mob later turned on the minister and beat him up for helping the twelve.
Clinton was an unlikely place for a revolution in civil rights. It was a small town with only three percent of its population as African Americans. This did not deter the quest for justice and equal human rights.The school was eventually blown up with dynamite in 1958 due to the desegregation. Although no one was injured the incident brought new light into how far the justice system had to go in order to ensure equal rights for all races. The courage of the students was commemorated in 12 life-size statues the grounds of Green McAdoo Cultural Center.
In Lawrence, N. (2015). Documenting the black experience: Essays on African American history, culture, and identity in nonfiction films.
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