Eyes on the Prize is a documentary film created for public television by Blackside Films. It is a chronicle of the civil rights movement in the U.S., and is a powerful statement about a struggle that still goes on today in the U.S. and around the world. It was aired in six one-hour segments on PBS and other stations around the nation. It was conceived and executive produced by the late Henry Hampton, president of Blackside. There was a sequel, Eyes II, which continued the history where Eyes on the Prize left off. This (IMHO) is some of the best television ever produced, and does much to strongly defend the medium from the storm of criticism that has been laid on it in recent years.

From the Blackside Films website, http://www.blackside.com:

Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965

Henry Hampton, executive producer
Judith Vecchione, series senior producer
Premiere airdate: January 1987
Copyright © 1987 Blackside, Inc. All rights reserved.

Series Overview

Intro: Program Notes
Seg. 1: Awakenings (1954-56)
Seg. 2: Fighting Back (1957-62)
Seg. 3: Ain't Scared of Your Jails (1960-61)
Seg. 4: No Easy Walk (1961-63)
Seg. 5: Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-64)
Seg. 6: Bridge to Freedom (1965)

The Eyes on the Prize documentary took its name from the protest song (which is also used as a theme song in the movie):
I know one thing we did right
Was the day we started to fight
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on (hold on)
Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

The tune is taken from an old folk song, whose attitude is quite different:

If you want to get to heaven,
I'll tell you how
Keep your hand on the plow
Keep your hand on the plow, hold on.

While both songs are about hard work and persistence, the old song seems to espouse the old notion of "suffer unquestioningly in this world and you'll be rewarded in the next" while the new one is a call for action and social change.


p.s. If I may be highly subjective for a minute, Eyes on the Prize is one of the best films ever made, and it is unquestionably the best film I've ever seen about the Civil Rights Movement. Everyone should see it.

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