‘Parchman Ordeal’ documentary to air on Mississippi Public Broadcasting Sunday

Published 11:42 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2017


NATCHEZ — One year after three filmmakers unveiled their documentary about one of Natchez’s darkest civil rights era episodes, the film will be broadcast this weekend to a statewide audience on public television.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, Mississippi Public Broadcasting will air “The Parchman Ordeal,” the documentary about the incarceration of more than 150 men and women at the state penitentiary in 1965.

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Since unveiling the film at the Natchez City Auditorium in October 2016, the film has toured several film festivals across the country and was named the most transformative film at the Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson.

The film recounts the abuses dozens of African-Americans endured after being arrested in Natchez and jailed at Parchman in 1965 for attempting to march for their civil rights.

For the film, Mark LaFrancis, Robert Morgan and Darrell White interviewed 19 surviving detainees. They were among approximately 600 individuals who had attempted to march. Nearly 150 individuals — many teenagers and young adults — were arrested and charged with parading without a permit. Some were sent to the local jail and some to the Natchez City Auditorium. With no space left, the remainder were sent to Parchman.

The filmmakers also interviewed notable Mississippi journalists, mayors and governors for the project.

As their latest work reaches its largest audience yet Sunday, the three filmmakers are already looking to their future projects.

LaFrancis, Morgan and White said they are now working on turning “The Parchman Ordeal” into a book and beginning their next documentary.

The upcoming film, “Women of the Struggle: Facing Fear in the Civil Rights Era,” focuses on the role of women in the Civil Rights movement.

“We realized there were voices in the Civil Rights era that weren’t heard of but were like an army supporting the voices – mostly male — that were out front,” LaFrancis said.

Interviews for this new documentary, LaFrancis said, should start at the end of this month.

LaFrancis said he, White and Morgan have honed their craft since starting work on “The Parchman Ordeal,” and will bring that expertise to the new documentary.