Eyes on the Prize

For the movement song, see Keep Your Eyes on the Prize. For the album, see Eyes on the Prize (album).
Eyes on the Prize

DVD cover
Also known as Eyes on the Prize I
Eyes on the Prize II
Genre Documentary
Based on Civil Rights Movement
Narrated by Julian Bond
Opening theme "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize"
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 14
Executive producer(s) Henry Hampton
Producer(s) Judith Vecchione
Jon Else
Location(s) United States
Running time 60 minutes
Original network Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
Picture format Black-and-white
Original release January 21, 1987 (1987-01-21) – March 5, 1990 (1990-03-05)
External links
Blackside, Inc.

Eyes on the Prize is an American television series and 14-part documentary about the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The documentary originally aired on the PBS network and also aired in the United Kingdom on BBC2. Created and executive-produced by Henry Hampton at Blackside, Inc., the series uses archival footage, stills and interviews of participants and opponents of the movement. The title of the series is derived from the folk song "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize," which is used in each episode as the opening theme music.

A total of 14 episodes of Eyes on the Prize were produced over two seasons. The first season, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954–1965, chronicles the time period between the United States Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education (1954) to the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965. The first season consists of six episodes, which premiered on January 21, 1987 and concluded on February 25, 1987. The second season, Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965–1985, consists of eight episodes, which aired on January 15, 1990 and ended on March 5, 1990, and made widely available to educators on VHS tape. All 14 hours were re-releaased on DVD in 2006 and can be purchased at PBS Video.


The film originated as two sequential projects. Part one, six hours long, was shown on PBS in early 1987 as Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954–1965). Eight more hours were broadcast in 1990 as Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads (1965–1985).

In 1992,it was released on home video (in VHS and Laserdisc). By the mid-1990s, both rebroadcasts and home video distribution were halted for several years due to expiration of rights and licenses of copyrighted archive footage, photographs and music used in the series and increasingly higher rates imposed by the copyright holders.[1] Grants from the Ford Foundation and Gilder Foundation enabled Blackside and the rights clearance team to renew rights.[2] While the return of Eyes on the Prize to public television and the educational market involved the contributions of many dedicated people, four individuals in particular were responsible for the long and complicated undertaking of rights renewals and the re-release of the series: Sandra Forman, Legal Counsel and Project Director; Cynthia Meagher Kuhn, Archivist and Rights Coordinator; Rena Kosersky, Music Supervisor; and Judi Hampton, President of Blackside and sister of Henry Hampton. None of the archival material in the fourteen hour documentary was removed or altered in any way. PBS rebroadcast the first six hours on American Experience on three consecutive Mondays in October 2006,[3] and rebroadcast the second eight hours in February 2008.[4] After a gap of almost eight years, Eyes on the Prize was rebroadcast on World Channel on fourteen consecutive Sundays beginning on January 17, 2016.

PBS reissued an educational version of the series in the fall of 2006, making it available on DVD for the first time.[5] It is now available to educational institutions and libraries from PBS on seven DVDs (ISBN 0-7936-9262-8) or seven VHS tapes. A consumer version of part one (1954–1965) was released in March 2010.[6]

The licensing issues from 1993 to 2006 generated what was called Eyes on the Screen, an effort to disseminate the series by file sharing networks without regard to copyright restrictions.


Each episode of the series is narrated by Julian Bond. A founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Bond emerged as a notable figure in the Civil Rights Movement in 1965 when he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives after passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which protected voting by African Americans. The House refused to seat him because he publicly endorsed SNCC's opposition to US involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1966, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled that the Georgia House of Representatives had denied Bond his freedom of speech and was required to seat him.[7]

America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"Awakenings (1954–1956)"Judith VecchioneSteve FayerJanuary 21, 1987 (1987-01-21)
Chronicles the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama.
22"Fighting Back (1957–1962)"Judith VecchioneSteve FayerJanuary 28, 1987 (1987-01-28)
Chronicles the school desegregation efforts at Central High School by the Little Rock Nine in Arkansas and by James Meredith at the University of Mississippi during the Ole Miss riot of 1962.
33"Ain't Scared of Your Jails (1960–1961)"Orlando BagwellSteve FayerFebruary 4, 1987 (1987-02-04)
Covers the Nashville sit-ins and boycotts that sought to end racial segregation at lunch counters in Tennessee and the Freedom Riders efforts to end segregation on interstate transportation and terminals throughout the southern United States.
44"No Easy Walk (1961–1963)"Callie Crossley & James A. DeVinneyCallie Crossley, James A. DeVinney, & Steve FayerFebruary 11, 1987 (1987-02-11)
Examines the failed attempt by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Albany, Georgia to end segregation and the subsequent lessons learned to win a major victory in Birmingham, Alabama during the Birmingham campaign. The film also covers the March on Washington, one of the largest political rallies for civil rights in United States.
55"Mississippi: Is This America? (1963–1964)"Orlando BagwellSteve FayerFebruary 18, 1987 (1987-02-18)
Chronicles the murders of Medgar Evers, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi. Covers the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) attendance at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City during the US presidential election of 1964.
66"Bridge to Freedom (1965)"Callie Crossley & James A. DeVinneyCallie Crossley, James A. DeVinney, & Steve FayerFebruary 25, 1987 (1987-02-25)
Examines efforts to restore voting rights in Selma, Alabama during the Selma to Montgomery marches.

America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-1985

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
71"The Time Has Come (1964–66)"James A. DeVinney & Madison D. LacyJames A. DeVinney & Madison D. LacyJanuary 15, 1990 (1990-01-15)
Examines a lead member of the Nation of Islam - Malcolm X. The film also chronicles the political organizing work of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) in Alabama and the shooting of James Meredith during the March Against Fear.
82"Two Societies (1965–68)"Sheila Curran Bernard & Samuel D. PollardSheila Curran Bernard, Steve Fayer, & Samuel D. PollardJanuary 22, 1990 (1990-01-22)
Follows Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Chicago Freedom Movement in Illinois and the tumultuous Detroit Riot of 1967 in Michigan.
93"Power! (1966–68)"Louis J. Massiah & Terry Kay RockefellerSteve Fayer, Louis J. Massiah, & Terry Kay RockefellerJanuary 29, 1990 (1990-01-29)
Chronicles the election of Carl Stokes as the mayor of Cleveland and the first African American to become mayor of a major U.S. city. The film also covers the formation of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and community control of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville school district in Brooklyn.
104"The Promised Land (1967–68)"Jacqueline Shearer & Paul SteklerSteve Fayer, Jacqueline Shearer, & Paul SteklerFebruary 5, 1990 (1990-02-05)
Chronicles the final years of Martin Luther King, Jr. It also covers the Poor People's Campaign and Resurrection City in Washington, D.C.
115"Ain't Gonna Shuffle No More (1964–72)"Sheila Curran Bernard & Samuel D. PollardSheila Curran Bernard, Steve Fayer, & Samuel D. PollardFebruary 15, 1990 (1990-02-15)
Chronicles the emergence of boxer Muhammad Ali, the student movement at Howard University, and the gathering of the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana.
126"A Nation of Law? (1968–71)"Louis J. Massiah, Thomas Ott, & Terry Kay RockefellerSteve Fayer, Louis J. Massiah, Thomas Ott, & Terry Kay RockefellerFebruary 19, 1990 (1990-02-19)
Chronicles the leadership and murder of Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party (BPP) in Chicago. The second part of the film covers the Attica Prison rebellion in Attica, New York.
137"The Keys to the Kingdom (1974–80)"Jacqueline Shearer & Paul SteklerSteve Fayer, Jacqueline Shearer, & Paul SteklerFebruary 26, 1990 (1990-02-26)
Examines the Boston school desegregation crisis involving busing in Massachusetts, the election of Maynard Jackson as mayor of Atlanta (the first African American to become mayor of any major city in the southern United States), affirmative action and the United States Supreme Court ruling Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978).
148"Back to the Movement (1979–mid 80s)"James A. DeVinney & Madison D. LacyJames A. DeVinney, Steve Fayer, & Madison D. LacyMarch 5, 1990 (1990-03-05)
Covers the Miami riot of 1980 and the election of Harold Washington as the first African-American mayor of Chicago. The film finishes with an overview of the Civil Rights Movement and its effect upon the United States and the world.


The book of the same title was created as a companion volume to the series during post-production by the producers and publishing staff at Blackside, Inc. They were assisted by Juan Williams, a Washington Post journalist. (hardcover ISBN 0-670-81412-1, paperback ISBN 0-245-54668-5). First published by Viking Press in 1987, the book used a portion of the iconic photograph of the Selma to Montgomery march taken by Look magazine photographer James Karales on its cover.


The series has been hailed as more than just a historical document. Clayborne Carson, a Stanford University history professor and editor of the published papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., said that "it is the principal film account of the most important American social justice movement of the 20th century". Because of its extensive use of primary sources and in-depth coverage of the material, it has been adopted as a key reference and record of the civil rights movement. However, it is a product of its time and as such its facts are not always current; for example, it states that nobody was ever convicted of the murder of Medgar Evers, which was true at that time. But Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of that murder on February 5, 1994, after having lived as a free man for much of the three decades following the killing (he was imprisoned from 1977 to 1980 for conspiring to murder A. I. Botnick). De La Beckwith appealed unsuccessfully, and died at age 80 in prison in January 2001.


Episode six, Bridge to Freedom, produced by Callie Crossley and James A. DeVinney, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1988 during the 60th Academy Awards.[8]

See also


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