Say It Loud

Life as an African American in Knoxville during the 1960s was a heady time. Between protests and lunch counter sit-ins, there were school dances, family picnics, and business as usual. On First Friday, September 5, the public is invited to Say It Loud!, an evening celebrating authentic views of African American life during Knoxville's civil rights era through rare historic film, live music, and art exhibits from 5:30 - 9:00, at the East Tennessee History Center. The program is free and open to the public.

As part of Unfinished Business: Then, Now & Going Forward , a year-long series of events commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, Say It Loud! highlights Knox County Public Library's Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound with footage from newsreels, home movies, and other documentation of lunch counter sit ins, parts of East Knoxville before urban renewal, programs at the Highlander Center, and a typical day at Vine Junior High School. This footage dates back to the 1940s and highlights some of the leaders that set the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement. Footage also includes Knoxville College in its prime, plus more.

Schedule of Events:

  • 5:30: Museum of East Tennessee History opens to the public
  • 6:00: Civil Rights-themed art show by local artists W. James Taylor and John Simm
  • 7:00: Live soul music provided by Kelle Jolly and the Will Boyd Project
  • 7:30: Screening of Say It Loud! Knoxville During the Civil Rights Era

1963 was a pivotal year in Knoxville’s history, culminating with Look Magazine’s designation of Knoxville as an All-American City in April of that year. During that same year, African-Americans attempted to purchase, and were refused, tickets to attend a screening of the now-classic film “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Tennessee Theatre. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would finally correct an unjust situation in Knoxville. Area schools, restaurants, churches, and Theatres were now open to everyone. By 1971, African Americans were running for political office in Knoxville. Indeed, social change had arrived, but it was a long, hard road to get there.

Documenting this social change on film were amateur home movie filmmakers and the television news film photographers from WBIR-TV. Over a 15 year span, WBIR-TV managed to capture the Clinton, Tennessee school bombings, the integration of city schools, sit-ins and protests in downtown Knoxville. Also depicted are urban renewal efforts during the mid-to-late 1960s, and important people and events within the African American community.

Say It Loud! is a collaborative effort between departments of Knox County Public Library, the City of Knoxville, and WBIR. Funding for production of the film was provided by the Friends of the Knox County Public Library.

Clips from the archive: