Born Under Jim Crow: The life of a civil rights activist

The Gladish Community and Cultural Center hosting stage reading “Born Under Jim Crow: The Eddie Brooks Tapes.”



Terry Buffington and her son, Kwasi, rehearsing “Born Under Jim Crow: The Eddie Brooks Tapes.”

NIKHIL GANTA, Evergreen reporter

The Gladish Community and Cultural Center is hosting a stage reading of Terry Buffington Productions’ “Born Under Jim Crow: The Eddie Brooks Tapes” from Feb. 17–19.

Two performers will read transcripts of a taped interview with civil rights activist Eddie Brooks, who Terry Buffington, artistic director and Black cultural anthropologist, interviewed on Nov. 18, 2010.

Eddie Brooks, a Black man who lived through the Jim Crow era in the 1960s, was part of the Student Non-Violence Committee in Mississippi and a field organizer for the Freedom Summer Campaign of 1964.

The interview covers Brooks’ journey navigating life and racism in the South during the Jim Crow era.

“One of the things I think you’ll walk away with from the Eddie Brooks tapes is that Black men or men of color in America live in two worlds,” Buffington said. “We live in a white world, and we have to step back over in our world.”

Buffington said the interview is part of a series of 21 cassette tapes in the Terry Buffington Papers, which is her collection of Black cultural anthropological work.

According to their website, Terry Buffington Productions is a community-based organization whose goal is to feature original, cultural and diverse productions and events inspired by the Terry Buffington Papers.

“The Terry Buffington Papers are a collection of my life’s work,” Buffington said. “And the collection is 99% about the Mississippi civil rights movements and the 1965 Freedom Summer.”

Buffington said the idea for Terry Buffington Productions came from her son, Kwasi. After the Papers were posted online, Buffington said her son suggested taking her collection to the stage. Her son, Buffington said, took the 400-page transcript and edited it into a script.

In the stage reading, Buffington will play herself, and her son will play Eddie Brooks.

“[Terry Buffington Productions] is set up to utilize my collection and … to bring in other scholars and people to the area,” Buffington said. “And we want to expose America to another side of the American South that you don’t study about in the history books.”

Kristen Lincoln, Gladish’s marketing and development manager, said Buffington and her son also produced a dinner event at the center.

During the dinner, Buffington and her son showed “Fundi: The Story of Ella Baker,” a film about Ella Baker, a civil rights activist and advisor of Martin Luther King Jr. Buffington served a Southern meal with catfish and cornbread, Lincoln said, and about 70–80 people attended.

Lincoln said Buffington and her son wanted to bring knowledge of Black history to the Palouse.

“It was really fortuitous for us because we were looking at ways to diversify the types of performances that we have here, and we needed someone like the Buffingtons to bring us that,” Lincoln said.

Tickets for the stage reading are available on Gladish’s website, with showings at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17–18 and 2 p.m. Feb. 18–19. The matinee showings cost $18, and the evening showings cost $20.

People can listen to the tapes through

“When [young people] talk about diversity, … I don’t want lip service; I want participation,” Buffington said. “I want people to come and hear this part of American history, which is a significant part of the American South and the whole fight and struggle for equality.”