William Peters

Active - 1970 - 1985  |   Born - Jul 30, 1921   |   Died - May 20, 2007   |   Genres - Culture & Society [nf], Education [nf]

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The groundbreaking author and documentarian William Peters first honed his professional skills as a journalist, writing about causes such as interracial marriages and social-club discrimination in periodicals with a largely female audience, such as McCall's and Redbook. Peters also made history as one of the first American belletrists to author a magazine article about then 27-year-old Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., in which he described the myriad of ways that King was transforming racial politics in the American South. Cinematically, Peters created one of the most vital postwar American documentaries. Aired on ABC in 1970 as an episode of Now (during that program's second major incarnation), Eye of the Storm visited Jane Elliott, an innovative teacher in rural Iowa who taught her students about racism by dividing the class into a "blue-eyed" group and a "brown-eyed" group. The program initially generated much controversy, but did more to illustrate discrimination as a learned behavior than any program before or since. In 1985, the program A Class Divided: Then and Now -- made for PBS's Frontline series -- extended the story and featured a reunion of the same students 15 years later.