The screening of a new documentary profiling a Southwest Georgia town infamous for lynching will help mark Black History Month at Georgia Institute of Technology next month.
The film entitled “Fair Game: Surviving A 1960 Georgia Lynching” profiles Blakely, Georgia, where 24 known Black men were lynched, and where, in 1960, a Black New Jersey Navy veteran risked becoming the 25thvictim.
Written, directed and produced by Boston-based documentary filmmaker Clennon L. King, of Albany, the 65-minute film will screen at The Student Center Theater, Georgia Institute of Technology, 350 Ferst Dr NW, Atlanta, GA 30332 on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 3:30 p.m. King will introduce his documentary, before leading a post screening discussion on the film’s narrative, followed by audience Q&A.
“I’m delighted Georgia Tech invited me to share this work in my home state about a county that was notorious for lynching deaths, second only to Atlanta,” said King. “With the opening of the national museum on lynching, the deaths of Blacks in police custody and their current over-incarceration, this film is both timely and relevant and hopefully offers audiences a granular look at a problem still alive and well.”
King dedicated his film to the 24 Black men who were lynched in Early County, and to his late father, Georgia’s legendary civil rights attorney C.B. King of Albany, who along with the late Atlanta attorney Donald L. Hollowell, represented a doomed Bayonne, New Jersey man named James Fair, Jr. The very first federal courthouse in the former Jim Crow South named for a black is named for C.B. King in Albany, Georgia.
In May 1960, Fair joined a friend from nearby Newark on a road trip home to Blakely, Georgia. Their arrival in Early County could not have been more ill-timed. It coincided with the alleged rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl, prompting local authorities to finger Fair as the fall guy. Less than three days later, a local judge sentenced him to Georgia’s electric chair, prompting his mother, Alice Fair, to mount a 26-month long campaign in her fight for his life.
The film features multiple Georgia luminaries, including the Atlanta native Vernon Jordan, who was a young law clerk on the case, and Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, founding dean of Morehouse School of Medicine and former Health and Human Services Secretary under President George H. W. Bush. Sullivan grew up in Blakely where his father served as the community’s sole Black undertaker.
One irony is, as the film notes, that Early County is the ancestral home of the Drinkard family, whose descendants include Grammy Award-winners Cissy and Whitney Houston, and cousin Dionne Warwick. Like Fair’s own family, the Drinkards joined the Great Migration of the 1940s, leaving the Deep South and resettling in the same part of New Jersey.
Also featured in the film are retired Chief Justice Herbert E. Phipps of the Georgia’s Court of Appeals, and former Blakely Police Chief Charles Middleton, who offers an unvarnished and personal look at his own suggestion that his family played a role in the lynching that took place in Early County.
The film narrative pays particular attention to historic context, noting as Fair is fighting for his life, JFK is making a White House run, MLK is behind bars at Reidsville Prison and Hollywood is shooting Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mocking Bird”.
“Fair Game” marks King’s second documentary. His first, the award-winning “Passage at St. Augustine: The 1964 Black Lives Matter Movement That Transformed America”, won the Henry Hampton Award of Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking at the 2015 Roxbury International Film Festival.
King was an on-air TV news reporter for WSB-TV in 1992-1993. He also was a special assistant to then-Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young from 1985-1988, and managed the City of Atlanta’s film bureau and government access station from 1990-1992.
The program is free and open to the public. Click to view trailer.