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Basic Black; Springfield Stands for Civil Rights


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Basic Black
Springfield Stands for Civil Rights
Program Number


Series Description

THe series was formerly known as Say Brother. Series title change as of 1/8/1998. This series is black produced and is one of public television's longest-running series that is rooted in and reflects the culture, concerns, achievements and history of people of African descent. Also includes controversial issues, African American artists, and events of special interest to the African American community.

Series release date: 1/8/1998

Program Description

BASIC BLACK presents a documentary produced by WGBY (WGBH’s sister station in Springfield, Mass.) that explores the civil rights era in Springfield.

The documentary begins with the roots of the civil rights movement, in the late 1950s. Long-time Springfield residents recall the de facto segregation that limited what blacks could do and where they could go. "I remember when the other side of Winchester Square was out of bounds," recalls Jay Griffin, resident of the popular African American neighborhood. "You couldn’t go past State Street unless you were going to do a service like shovel snow."

In the summer of 1965, a confrontation between black residents and police outside the Octagon Lounge in Winchester Square was a turning point for race relations in the city. To address what they considered unfair treatment at the scene and in the local press, a group of African Americans held a three-night vigil on the steps of City Hall. In one of the documentary’s most powerful moments, former police officer Harold Clinton remembers quietly singing "We Shall Overcome" as he fulfilled his duty to arrest protesters.

The program chronicles racial tensions at Springfield’s high schools, which ran high by the late 1960s. Orlando Wright, who staged a walk-out at Technical High School with a group of students, says, " We wanted to be understood. It was hard to be understood when you ran across a problem in school and you had no one you could talk to. There was no adult who could identify with us as black kids." Ann Hatchett tells the filmmakers how that incident prompted her to become the school’s first African American counselor.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Chicago: “Basic Black; Springfield Stands for Civil Rights,” 07/01/1999, GBH Archives, accessed March 1, 2024,
MLA: “Basic Black; Springfield Stands for Civil Rights.” 07/01/1999. GBH Archives. Web. March 1, 2024. <>.
APA: Basic Black; Springfield Stands for Civil Rights. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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