On September 25, 2019, Andalman & Flynn’s founding partner, Elliott Andalman, had the privilege of attending the world premiere of “Devine Hamer Gray”, a multimedia musical written and directed by celebrated musicologist and theologian Nolan Williams, Jr. The production was debuted at George Washington University as part of the 2019 March on Washington Film Festival.
The cinematic production illuminates the largely untold story of three Civil Rights activists – Annie Devine, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Victoria Jackson Gray – who were among the founders of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDM). They organized to challenge the established power of the state’s Democratic Party in 1964. The Mississippi Democratic Party only permitted whites to participate, although African-Americans comprised 40% of the state’s population. In the face of unrelenting violence and economic oppression, the three women won the election as congressional candidates on the MFDM ticket. They then went to Congress and contested the election of the all-white Democratic Party candidates, and in 1965 gave depositions which were made part of the Congressional Record as part of an extensive Congressional investigation. Although the MFDM candidates ultimately were not seated, through the process of the challenge they were the first African American women ever allowed onto the floor of the House of Representatives.
“This was an important and fascinating, but often forgotten, part of the civil rights movement of the 1960s to win the right to vote and hold office in Mississippi after almost a century of Jim Crow laws,” said Mr. Andalman. “It’s an inspiring musical production with important lessons for the present and I hope will be widely seen. It got a standing ovation at the end, which is richly deserved.”
Held annually in Washington, D.C., The March on Washington Film Festival serves as a national platform to tell, celebrate, and increase awareness of the untold events and heroes, known and unsung, of the Civil Rights Movement. The multi-day event uses film screenings as a platform for panel discussions featuring filmmakers, academics, and activists, and brings together an audience that is diverse in age, class, and ethnicity. Over the years, the Festival has proven to be a successful civil rights legacy project, connecting with tens of thousands of attendees; attracting celebrities like Diahann Carroll, 9th Wonder, and Ta-Nehisi Coates; and prominently highlighting Civil Rights legends including Dorie Ladner, Judge Damon Keith, and many more.