Chloe Edwards, MDAH Electronic Records archivist, brings us the first post in a new series celebrating Electronic Records Day and Archives Month.

At left, Freedom Rider Helen Singleton is interviewed by host Bill Stoudt. (Credit: http://www.singletonfreedomriders.com/category/coverage/)

At left, Freedom Rider Helen Singleton is interviewed by host Bill Stoudt. (Credit: http://www.singletonfreedomriders.com/category/coverage/)

The City at Night

Call number: Disk 0007

Format: DVD

Run time: 48 minutes

In honor of Electronic Records Day, first celebrated on 10/10/10 (can you guess why?), a new blog series will highlight some of the newly available digital content from Electronic Archives: the disk collection. These disks have made their way to Electronic Archives from other sections of the department as well as from outside donors. It runs the gamut, from audio CDs of Mississippi recording artists like Dorothy Moore and Ora Reed, to documentaries on Mississippi history, to CDs containing genealogical resources.

Today we feature one disk in particular: Disk 0007, “The City at Night” is a reformatted copy of an episode of this weekly news program that aired on KTLA in Los Angeles from 1950 to 1960. What made “The City at Night” unique was its premise: the show was filmed live and its topic kept a secret from the host and camera crew until just hours before filming (although the topic was often leaked to audiences prior to broadcast). The show was predicated on the idea that viewers could experience aspects of their city to which they might not otherwise have been exposed. “The City at Night” featured a mix of programming that included university homecomings, Hollywood’s Fire Station 27, the Los Angeles Braille Institute, and in the late summer of 1961, the show covered a Freedom Riders training session. Men and women who participated in the 1961 Freedom Rides tested a recent Supreme Court ruling declaring segregated facilities in interstate transportation unconstitutional. Groups traveled by bus, plane, or train—integrating terminals, restaurants, and restrooms along the way.

MDAH is fortunate to hold a copy of this broadcast, which was donated to the department by Winston Fuller in 2011. The program can be divided into three sections. The first shows experienced Freedom Riders addressing an auditorium of potential volunteers, describing to them in detail what will happen when they are arrested and how they will be treated in the Hinds County Jail and the state penitentiary at Parchman. Then the training moves to a simulated sit-in, showing the kind of treatment volunteers could expect when they demonstrated at a segregated lunch counter. Finally, there are interviews, first with the Freedom Riders who participate in the skit (shown in image above/below), and then with volunteer (and future donor) Winston Fuller, who would go on to participate in his first Freedom Ride to Jackson shortly after the filming. Also included in the broadcast is footage showing the arrest of several Freedom Riders in the Jackson bus station on July 26, 1961.

The training captured by this broadcast is a powerful first-hand account of preparations for the Freedom Rides, as well as their treatment in the city.  Perhaps most importantly, it shows the Freedom Riders as individuals: as kids who could see the humor and horror in Parchman, and as men and women who were determined to act to change the segregated status quo.

MORE INFORMATION:

To find out more about this disk, search our online catalogue for disk 0007. To browse the disk collection, navigate to the Advanced Search page, check the “Electronic Records” box, and type “disk” into the keyword search bar.

All catalogued disks are available to view in the Media Room; patrons should request disks from media staff using the four digit call number.

VIEWING NOTES:

If you wish to view this disk, please be aware that there is no fast-forward or reverse capability on the DVD: it can only be watched from beginning to end, although playback can be stopped at any point.

References:

Chambers, Stan. KTLA’s News at 10: Sixty Years with Stan Chambers. Behler Publications, 2008. Accessed on 10/03/2014 through Google Books.

Connor, Michan Andrew. “Creating Cities and Citizens: Municipal Boundaries, Place, Entrepreneurs, and the Production of Race in Los Angeles Count, 1926–1978.” Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California, 2008. Accessed 10/03/2014 at http://digitallibrary.usc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15799coll127/id/141194

Image: screenshot at 00:02:11 from http://www.singletonfreedomriders.com/category/coverage/