“Always In Season” Connects Lynching With Racial Violence Today
The documentary, “Always in Season,” explores the connections between historic lynching and racial violence today. In observance of Black History Month, a screening and discussion of the film will be presented at the University of West Florida Saturday, just ahead of its national premiere.
“I moved back to my hometown back in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and had seen the exhibit: “Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America,” said Jacqueline Olive, director, producer, and writer of “Always in Season” in regards to her inspiration for the project more than a decade ago.
“Those were photos that were taken at lynchings, where a photographer would set up in the middle of the violence and adjust for lighting, adjust for composition and then photograph the victim being tortured and mutilated over hours.”
A trailer for the documentary, narrated by actor Danny Glover, describes the setting, “His body would be hung in the courthouse square for all to see. All white folks are invited to the party.”
“Men, women and children would come out to lynchings. At one point, spectacle lynchings were incredibly popular, and people would pose with the bodies of victims,” Olive said.
Many of those photographs were taken as souvenirs, with some of them turned into postcards, and mailed to family and friends, through the U.S. Postal Service.
“I remember those images and was just really struck, first by the faces of the victims, wondering what it must have been like for them to find that their community, sometimes half the community, sometimes all of the community, would turn on them in this way,” Olive said of her thoughts on the photos she spent six months researching.
She also spent time researching the stories of some of the spectators, noting that their faces looked like those of her friends and neighbors, and people she could have known.
After a lengthy period of research and development in 2008 and 2009, Olive spent the next 10 years producing the film.
While she lived in Pensacola, she traveled around the country filming in communities that were dealing with historic lynchings.
“This film has always been a contemporary story, even when I’m looking at historic lynchings, because it’s very much about the lingering impact, the multi-generational impact on communities.”
Nine communities were featured in the film; one of them was Duluth, Minnesota.
“I filmed with a man named Warren Meade who found that his great-great grandfather instigated the early 1900’s lynching of three black men there in Duluth,” Olive said. “ I filmed with him as he met with a relative of the woman who falsely accused those men of rape and a cousin of one of the victims.”
Olive also traveled to Monroe, Georgia, where a diverse group of people gets together every year to re-enact and remember the lynching of two couples on the Moore’s-Ford Bridge in 1946.
Filming in Georgia was wrapping, when she learned of the hanging death of 17-year-old Lennon Lacy in Bradenboro, North Carolina in 2014.
"My son was 17 at the time, so I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for Lennon’s mother, to not just to deal with the death of her son, but to suspect that he might have been lynched,” Olive recalled.
“If you knew in your heart and in your mind, that someone took your child’s life, how far would you go,” asked the mother of Lennon Lacy in a clip of the documentary trailer.
Next, we hear a police radio transmission that notifies units of a male subject hanging from a swing, a black male subject.
Another voices suggest Lacy’s death was made to look like a suicide, while yet another said it looked like a “back in the day” lynching.
“So I got on the ground there as quickly as possible, because I just wanted to understand more about the story, what was going on there. And, the more I spoke with Claudia, Lennon’s mother, Pierre, his brother and other folks in the community, I started to see very quickly, the parallels between the horror that Bladenboro was dealing with and the things that I’d been learning in other communities where I had been filming over the previous four years.”
Olive has had a lot of success with her film, including a Special Jury Award for "Moral Urgency" from the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. After that, it screened at more than 50 festivals around the country and was shown at AMC theatres and arthouses in numerous cities.
"As the film was becoming well-known throughout the country, as it was gaining awards, I had communicated with Jackie a few times to see if it was possible to show the film here in Pensacola,” said Scott Satterwhite, a UWF instructor and friend of Jackie’s.
He got the okay from Jackie and funding help from the UWF Kugelman Honors Program. So, two days before the national premiere, there will be a special Black History Month screening of the documentary Saturday, 6 p.m., at the UWF Center for Fine & Performing Arts.
The film, released shortly after the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., ties in nicely with the goal of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Community Remembrance Project, which is working to recognize lynching victims from across the country by collecting soil from lynching sites and erecting historical markers.
Satterwhite says everyone should see it, even though the subject matter is emotionally difficult.
“The people that are being lynched are human beings, of course. They are somebody’s parents, somebody’s husband, sometimes husbands and wives together lynched, sometimes father and son; you had these multiple stories, mothers and sons, and they're incredibly horrible stories," explained Satterwhite.
"And, then to see that in history classes or history books or photographs and to think, “Well, I’m glad that era is over.” Then, to see where Jackie has taken this film and seeing this in a modern context and say “Maybe, it’s not actually over.” Maybe this is part of a long continuum in this country."
“I want people to understand the scope of the terrorism," added Olive, writer, producer and director of the film.
“That to understand lynching and its history is to better understand ourselves and our communities and to more clearly see the connections between historic racial violence and what's going on today around racial violence and issues of structural racism."
She continued, "When people begin to have these conversations about a history that’s often steeped in cover up and denial, start to break the silence, and start to have these conversations, we understand these issues so much more clearly.”
Olive will be on hand for Saturday’s Pensacola screening of “Always in Season,” and will take part in a panel discussion, along with local community healers, Teniade Broughton and Hale Morrissette.