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The Clinton 12
Keith McDaniel

 "The Clinton 12" Review 
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I admit it.

I don't understand.

I've never understood.

It is impossible for me to understand that, nearly within my own lifetime, it was considered a cultural norm to discriminate on the basis of one's skin color.

I can't fathom it.

I can't fathom, not even for a moment, the public rage that led to horrific acts of violence following the Brown. vs. Board of Education decision that called for the integration of public high schools.

Truthfully, I don't want to fathom it.

"The Clinton 12," a documentary from filmmaker Keith McDaniel and narrated by actor James Earl Jones, brings us face-to-face with 12 students from Clinton, Tennessee and their forced integration into an all-white high school on August 27, 1956.

It wasn't pretty.

It wasn't anything I can even imagine.

Yet, it was real.

Through the use of archival footage, news reports and interviews with both the Clinton 12 and Clinton community members, "The Clinton 12" vividly and powerfully captures a not so distant time in American history that seems almost impossible to imagine now.

An official selection of the Lake County Film Festival in 2009 and winner of the Audience Award at the Nashville Film Festival, "The Clinton 12" is a story that has been too often ignored but deserves to be told.

You see, "The Clinton 12" isn't just a tale of racism gone awry. It's a story about one community's response to a judicial mandate, one community's commitment to "community," the ability of a small minority to take hostage the majority and, finally, the ability of good people to overcome evil acts of inhumanity.

As framed by Keith McDaniel, "The Clinton 12" is compelling, involving and memorable. The images that played out onscreen continue to play out in my mind...scenes of masses gathering at the county courthouse, scenes of a small group of people standing boldly against the hatred despite overwhelming odds and, perhaps most vividly for me, a courageous Baptist minister doing what was right and faithful and being nearly beaten to death by the make-believe Christians who all too often hid behind their white caps and burning crosses.

The final gesture, an act that feels as much as one desperate act by a small group of individuals acutely aware that what little power it had managed to acquire was quickly dissipating.

Testifying to the power and majesty of community, "The Clinton 12" informs, educates, inspires and remembers that the loudest voice is often the voice of those who choose to remain silent when the world so desperately needs to hear them.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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