Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change on PBS World

Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change on PBS World

Tue, 02/23/2010 - 7:00pm - Sun, 02/28/2010 - 11:00pm

Pictured: Sr. Mary Antona gives witness in Selma, Alabama, on March 10, 1965.

Credit: Bettman/CORBIS

SISTERS OF SELMA: BEARING WITNESS FOR CHANGE  investigates the role Catholic nuns played in Alabama's 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches.

This program is an unabashedly spiritual take on the Selma, Alabama, voting rights marches of 1965 from some of its unsung foot soldiers - Catholic nuns. Following the violence of "Bloody Sunday," sisters from around the country answered Dr. Martin Luther King's call to join the protests in Selma. Never before in American history had avowed Catholic women made so public a political statement. Risking personal safety to bring change, the sisters found themselves being changed in turn - and they tell viewers how. Selma blacks testify about the importance of Catholic clergy in their lives, and explain why it took until the year 2000 for them to become fully enfranchised. Newfound dramatic archival footage carries much of the story. In 2003, director Jayasri Hart reunited the nuns to let them view themselves and the protests on tape for the first time. Their recorded reactions help narrate the film. Other Selmians, Catholic and Protestant, white and black, give their views on the nuns' contributions to history. Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change re-airs Tuesday, February 23 at 8a.m., 2p.m., and 7p.m., Wednesday, February 24 at 11a.m., and Sunday, February 28 at 10a.m., 4p.m. and 11p.m. on PBS World (cable 524/DT21.2).

The one-hour feature documents how six nuns from the Midwest joined the voting marches. It was the first time that vowed Catholic women had made so public a political statement. Also featured are the Sisters of St. Joseph, a group of nuns from New York who had been part of the Selma community since the 1930s. These dedicated women ran local missions for Selma's African-American community, provided board for visiting protestors and, at Selma's Good Samaritan Hospital, treated marchers who had clashed with state troopers.

Many of the nuns who risked their personal safety during voting rights marches of 1965 are now retired or serving elsewhere in the country. SISTERS OF SELMA director/producer Jayasri Majumdar Hart reunited the sisters and showed them unused news footage from 1965 that had been stored in American and Canadian television network archives. The comments the sisters made while watching themselves on film serve as a large part of SISTERS OF SELMA 's narrative.

Director/producer Jayasri Majumdar Hart is an independent producer/editor based in Los Angeles. She produced and directed the 2000 PBS documentary ROOTS IN THE SAND, a multi-generational portrait of pioneering Punjabi-Mexican families who settled, a century ago, in Southern California's Imperial Valley. Hart has also produced radio features for BBC World Service and national TV programming in India. Her interest in Catholic women stems from her experience with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. As Sister Antona Ebo - one of the nuns featured in SISTERS OF SELMA - likes to point out, it took a Hindu woman from halfway around the world to finally tell her story.  

Throughout the year, PBS invites viewers to explore the vast contributions of African Americans. In honor and celebration of Black History Month, February 2010, PBS presents new and encore programs, beginning in January and continuing through February.