400 Years Later…

The four-part documentary film series, 400 Years Later…’free-ish, explores the 400-year commemoration of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia in late August 1619. The films capture this epic milestone through the journey of fifteen HBCU students as they explore past and present race relations in the birthplace of American slavery. The documentaries follow the students in their efforts to promote racial healing and reconciliation as they grapple with Virginia’s contentious history and the racial issues these monuments present.
The HBCU Storytellers Project is a unique partnership between the Nate Parker Foundation, Inc. and the Kellogg Foundation. This partnership provides students the opportunity to learn the art of filmmaking while receiving a culturally enriching educational experience that prepares them to use film as a vehicle for racial healing and reconciliation. Student participants from Hampton University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University, and Norfolk State University engaged in an 18-month process that empowered them to create 4 documentaries over the course of their tenure.
Students travel throughout Virginia to historic sites in Jamestown, Port Comfort, Richmond, Charlottesville and South Hampton to meet with students, scholars, archeologists, elected officials, community activists and everyday people to examine two controversial monuments: The planned erection of the Emancipation Proclamation Freedom Monument on Brown’s Island which will recognize ten African American freedom fighters including controversial figure Nat Turner and the planned removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, VA. Both monuments have been topics of controversy throughout the country that clearly highlight the racial divide in America.
These films will be promoted and shown at local and national levels along with facilitated panel discussions with students, elected officials and community stakeholders. They will be packaged with a screening/discussion guide and four curriculum units that can be used by educators and/or parents that are designed to evoke greater understanding of the African American experience in America and current racial issues that still persist.
These films are currently being screened across the country to facilitate meaningful dialogue around the current racial climate while highlighting progressive organizations and individuals that engage in the ongoing work of truth-telling and social justice. We believe that the HBCU Storytellers Project will directly improve the targeted communities by providing a platform for memories, dialogues and community engagement to build stronger intergenerational and interracial relationships. These shared connections will help shift the conversation and collective understanding of past and present, with the specific aim of changing the future. Contact us to host a screening.

Part I. The Sankofa Journey

Viewers are introduced to the students as they travel to Montgomery, Alabama for a tour of the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice, The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, and The Rosa Parks Museum. Viewers will explore these powerful memorials and museums through the eyes of the students as they learn from educators and local community leaders about the importance of confronting our country’s history of racial terror through truth telling. Students interview  Equal Justice Initiative founder, attorney/activist Bryan Stevenson, Esq. who provides them with valuable knowledge and insight about the transformative power of memorials as tools for racial healing in preparation for their film projects in Virginia.

Part II. The Arrival

In Part II students follow organizations and individuals involved in the 400 Year Commemoration of the first Africans to arrive in Point Comfort, VA and Jamestown, the birthplace of American slavery. Viewers will learn from Senator Tim Kaine about the “400 Years of African American History Act” that was passed to promote this milestone while visiting both the 1619 Project in Point Comfort, VA and the Jamestown Rediscovery in Jamestown, VA to learn from scholars and archeologists about the experiences of the first Africans that arrived. Viewers will also get to observe student interviews with various Virginians of all backgrounds as they answer questions surrounding race relations in our country, 400 years later.

Part III. Confederate Monuments: Heritage or Hatred?

Part III highlights the controversies surrounding the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue that gained national attention after the Unite the Right Rally in 2017 that led to the tragic death of Heather Heyer. Students will follow stakeholders involved in this debate, including high school student leader Zyhanna Bryant and Dr. Wes Bellamy, the Vice Mayor of Charlottesville who led the charge to remove the statue.  This film also highlights various community interviews with diverse Virginians that explore the issues surrounding the question of heritage or hatred.

Part IV. Monuments that Heal

Part IV introduces viewers to current issues surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation Freedom Monument, which will be erected in Virginia in 2021. Four leaders from the MLK Commission that spearheaded this historic project, Sen. Jennifer McClellan, Sen Mami Locke, Delegate Delores McQuinn and Professor Lauranette Lee will be highlighted as they view a replica of the Emancipation Proclamation Freedom Monument in the Valentine Museum and explain the process of moving this initiative forward and its significance to racial healing.  This film also explores the issues surrounding the monuments most controversial figure being honored, Nat Turner, through interviews with various community stakeholders including grassroots community leader, Khalifa Khalifa who provides insight into Turner’s legacy.