You are here: Home / Special Initiatives / Annual Lecture Series / The Barbara Jordan Lecture Series / Judy Richardson - 3/21/16

Judy Richardson - 3/21/16

Who We Are

Who We Are

Judy RichardsonJudy Richardson brings to her filmmaking a long-time involvement with social justice issues, beginning with her work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the South in the early 1960s. She began her film career working on all fourteen hours of Blackside's PBS series, Eyes on the Prize (winner of an Academy Award nomination, six Emmys, the highest broadcast journalism award, and many others). She was Series Associate Producer for the second series, content advisor and researcher for the first series, and Education Director for the full Eyes series. Also for Blackside, Ms. Richardson co-produced the 2-1/2 hour documentary, Malcolm X: Make It Plain in 1994, which aired nationally on PBS' "The American Experience," winning both an Emmy and a Peabody Award; and Hopes on the Horizon on African liberation movements. Her SNCC experiences have influenced her throughout her life. As a SNCC staff worker, Ms. Richardson worked on projects throughout the South: in SNCC's national office in Atlanta, and in Mississippi, Alabama and Southwest Georgia.

In 1964 she moved with SNCC's national office to Greenwood, Mississippi during "Freedom Summer." In 1965 she left SNCC's Lowndes County, Alabama, project to become the office manager for the successful first campaign of Julian Bond (then SNCC's Press Director; now Chair Emeritus of the NAACP) for the Georgia House of Representatives. She also organized a residential "freedom school" which brought together young people from civil rights struggles in both the North and South to talk about common concerns and strategies. In 1968 Ms. Richardson and a number of former SNCC workers organized Drum & Spear Bookstore in Washington, D.C. The bookstore opened one month after the riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. That bookstore soon became the largest African American bookstore in the country. A publishing house followed -- with offices in Washington and Tanzania, East Africa -- for which she became the children's editor. In the 1970's Ms. Richardson was involved in several independent projects, including directing a study of racism in Black children's books for the Howard University School of Education.

In 1974 she became Director of the Black Student Fund, a scholarship agency for African-American students attending independent schools in the Washington, D.C. area. In 1978 she began her first stint with Blackside, Inc. She was the Associate Producer for what was to become Eyes on the Prize, conducting the earlier research and pre-interviews and working on other Blackside productions. She then moved to Los Angeles where she worked on PBS television programs for young people and organized a multi-ethnic training program for new actors. In 1982 Ms. Richardson returned to New York (having been born and raised in Tarrytown, N.Y.) and began her work with the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. As it's Director of Information she coordinated public information campaigns and research for the organization's activities, including anti-police brutality campaigns in New York City and two Freedom Rides from New York to the Alabama Black Belt to counter Justice Department intimidation of Black voters. She also wrote the Commission's weekly commentary. She was a Senior Producer with Northern Light Productions (Boston). With Bestor Cram, she produced/directed the one-hour PBS documentary Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968, about the killing of student demonstrators on two black college campuses in Orangeburg, S.C. The film was broadcast nationally on PBS and was the only film shown at the NAACP's 100th anniversary conference. She also produced all the videos for the National Park Service's Little Rock Visitor Center, focused on the 1957 school desegregation struggle by the "Little Rock Nine"; she is currently co-producing the orientation film for the site. Her other Northern Light productions include Slave Catchers, Slave Resisters, a two-hour special for the History Channel on the slave policing system and slave resistance; two pieces for the much-acclaimed New-York Historical Society's "Slavery in New York" exhibit; and From Slavery to Freedom, an overview of the history of slavery in the U.S. for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center/Cincinnati. She also produced/wrote A Fragile Freedom: African American Historic Sites, a one-hour documentary for The History Channel; and museum orientation films for the Paul Laurence Dunbar historic site (Dayton) and the Museum of African-American History (Boston). She and five other female SNCC activists co-edited Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC. Published by University of Illinois Press, it includes the memoirs of 52 courageous women on the front lines of the 1096s Southern Civil Rights Movement.

She is also on the board of the SNCC Legacy Project, which was formed to publicize SNCC's work and legacy. The SLP is currently involved in a number of projects related to contemporary issues. These include collaborations with Duke University on an on-going website about SNCC's voting rights and other social justice organizing work (, and a voting rights conference. Ms. Richardson has authored numerous academic articles (in Social History, Public Historian, and others), and lectures nationally about the Movement, its history and values, and its relevance to issues we face today. Since 1990 she has also conducted professional development workshops for teachers on the Civil Rights Movement, using selections from Eyes on the Prize and other Movement-related films. She was awarded an honorary doctorate by Swarthmore College and was a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Brown University.

"We Shall Not Be Moved: Women in the Civil Rights Movement"

In the narrative of the 1960's Civil Rights Movement the crucial role of women continues to be too often obscured. Based on her experiences as a staff worker with the student-led Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the South, the production of the 14-hour Eyes on the Prize series, and as co-editor of the memoirs of 52 SNCC female activists in Hands on the Freedom, Ms. Richardson will highlight powerful stories of the strong local leaders – many of them women and young people—who led and sustained the southern movement of the 1960's. Like today's Black Lives Matter activism, women and young people were at the center of that movement.

Foster Auditorium in the Paterno Library
5:30-7:00 p.m.