Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The place was the tiny, racially mixed community of Jasper, TX. On June 7, 1998, an elderly, unemployed black man named James Byrd Jr. was kidnapped by a trio of white supremacists and bound by his feet to the back of a pickup truck, whereupon he was literally dragged to death. While the crime outraged both the black and white citizens of Jasper, and the subsequent arrest and conviction of the murderers satisfied most of the population, the incident also served to point up the racial prejudice and divisiveness that still existed in the community despite four decades of so-called progress. The 90-minute documentary Two Towns of Jasper was created by Marco Williams and Whitney Dow, who engaged two separate camera crews -- one white, one black -- to interview the people of Jasper in the aftermath of the murder. The white crewpersons spoke to the Caucasian citizens, while the blacks interviewed only African-Americans. The results were sometimes reassuring, sometimes depressing, but never less than fascinating. After winning several awards on the regional film-festival circuit, Two Towns of Jasper made its American TV bow as an episode of the PBS anthology POV. The film was followed up by a live-on-tape town meeting, telecast from Jasper and moderated by Ted Koppel, which was subsequently shown on both PBS and ABC.
hate-crime, race-relations, murder, racism, social-issues, trial [courtroom]