Forty years ago, 22-year-old civil rights worker Paul Saltzman drove from his home in Toronto down to Mississippi to volunteer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was assigned to Greenwood, a city at the center of the Civil Rights Movement, to help disadvantaged sharecroppers register to vote. A young member of the Ku Klux Klan assaulted him in front of the Greenwood courthouse. His attacker, Byron de la Beckwith Jr., was the son of the man convicted of murdering civil rights activist Medgar Evers.
Decades later, Saltzman wanted to explore what had changed (or not changed) in the Deep South — and to meet with Beckwith. His interviews with the former Klan member, which span more than five years, are at the core of a documentary he released in 2007, “The Last White Knight: Is Reconciliation Possible?”
As Chautauqua gathers to examine “21st - Century Literacies: Multiple Ways of Making Sense of the World,” Saltzman’s efforts to move communities forward by confronting America’s history of racism and racial violence are devastatingly prescient.
This afternoon at 3:15 p.m., Saltzman will introduce “The Last White Knight” and engage the community in a dialogue regarding the film’s themes in a special Meet the Filmmaker event at Chautauqua Cinema.
Saltzman is a two-time Canadian Emmy Award-winning film and TV director and producer, with more than 300 productions to his credit. His other films include “Prom Night in Mississippi,” which features Morgan Freeman. He is also the founder and CEO of Moving Beyond Prejudice, a nonprofit organization that works with students, educators and community groups.