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Documentary Film Screening: Cheating the Stillness: The World of Julia Peterkin

Documentary Film Screening: Cheating the Stillness: The World of Julia Peterkin

Decatur Library Auditorium

May 10, 2018, 7:15p.m.

The 1929 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to Scarlet Sister Mary, the gritty tale of a fiercely independent single mother set in a South Carolina African American farming community. The novel was a best seller at a time when American readers – white or black – weren’t interested in rural African American life. Was she white or black? According to African American scholar and activist, W.E.B. DuBois, she was a Southern white woman with “the eye and the ear to see beauty and to know truth.” Dividing her life between her South Carolina plantation and the literary world of New York, Peterkin was friends with writers H.L. Mencken and Carl Sandburg, as well as NAACP National Secretary Walter White. She was paradoxical, controversial and broke all the rules, revolutionizing American literature and rebelling against society’s expectations for a Southern lady. But the height of her career, she inexplicably stopped writing. Julia Peterkin’s remarkable story unfolds against the backdrop of twenty century Afircan American history – the era of Jim Crow, the Harlem Renaissance and the early achievements of the Civil Rights Movement. Produced and Directed by Gayla Jamison and narrated by Elizabeth Omilami, the film aired on PBS stations nationwide in 2010.