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Free screenings of Grand Valley documentary film

Posted on October 15, 2009

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- A Grand Valley State University documentary film about the World War II era migration of African Americans from the American South to Muskegon, Michigan, will be shown during two free screenings on October 20, at 4 and 7 p.m. in the Cook DeWitt Center, Allendale Campus.

The film, "Up from the Bottoms: The Search for the American Dream," made its world premiere at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in August and was screened at the Michigan Film Festival. The film is sponsored by Grand Valley State University, Michigan Humanities Council, Community Foundation for Muskegon and Alcoa Howmet.

Produced by brothers Jim and Rod Schaub, the 56-minute film is narrated by the actress Cicely Tyson, with a soundtrack that includes music from Stevie Wonder and Miles Davis. It is part of the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

"The Bottoms is a low-lying area in Muskegon near Jackson Hill that was inhabited by many African Americans who came in the 1930s and '40s for industrial jobs related to World War II," said producer and director Jim Schaub, who teaches in Grand Valley's School of Communications. "When they first arrived, many of them slept in boarding houses or shared 'hot beds' until they could afford homes. Others started small businesses out of their homes, like barber shops and markets, to support themselves and service their growing community."

The documentary also delves into the racial climate of the times and the culture, including the popularity of jazz clubs that drew people from outside areas. In addition to capturing and preserving this important segment of history, the film serves as a tremendous learning tool before, during and after production. Grand Valley students have done background research and collected oral histories from more than 15 people, now in their 80s, who settled in the Bottoms. Interviews, recreations and historical footage are included in the documentary. 
Additional screenings of the film are planned at the African Diaspora Film Festival in New York, the Santa Cruz Film Festival, the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival, the Portland African American Film Festival and privately for the Michigan Humanities Council board of directors and as part of the Kent County government employee diversity training, during Black History Month.
For more information visit, or call Jim Schaub in the School of Communications at (616) 331-3633.


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