We’d like to congratulate filmmaker Marco Williams who has been selected by the Organization of American Historians to receive the 2009 Erik Barnouw Award, which is given annually for outstanding reporting or programming on network or cable television, or in documentary film, concerned with American history, the study of American history, and/or the promotion of history. On Saturday, March 28, OAH President Pete Daniel and President-Elect Elaine Tyler May presented the awards and prizes in Seattle, Washington, during the 102nd Annual Meeting of the Organization.
Marco’s latest film, Banished, is a co-production of Two Tone Productions, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), and the National Black Programming Consortium, with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Sally Jo Fifer, Executive Producer for ITVS.
Banished focuses on a subject of American race relations that has received little attention. In addition to the horrible history of lynchings, many towns in the United States drove away entire black communities and seized their land without payment. The narrative tension in this documentary revolves around the search of the filmmaker and several black families today to track down what happened to their relatives and their land that was seized in the wake of mob violence. The film follows their quest from town to town and library to library, where they interview mayors and other officials and current residents of the towns. The white residents of these towns insist that they know nothing about it and claim that they are innocent because all this happened before they were born. The film illuminates this shameful episode of racial cleansing on American soil, and the legacy of loss and wounds that remain.