Leave or die: this was the choice white majority residents in various cities around the United States gave African Americans between the end of the Civil War and the Great Depression. <i>Banished</i> examines this shameful, hidden chapter in the history of American race relations by revisiting three of the communities that forcibly expelled their entire African American populations and interviewing the descendants of families who left their communities and property behind as they fled for their lives. In the still all-white communities of Pierce City, Missouri; Harrison, Arkansas; and Forsyth County, Georgia; the echoes of racial injustice during the past century still reverberate.
Filmmaker Marco Williams (<i>Two Towns of Jasper</i>, Sundance 2002) travels to each town, conspicuous as the only African American, and meets with historians, civic leaders, and residents. While his conversations sharply highlight the way these towns confront or ignore their legacy, the institutionalization of racism becomes most tangible through the stories of the descendants of Morgan Strickland and James Cobb. Strickland's relatives search for proof that he really sold off his land before leaving Forsyth County, while Cobb's family seeks his remains in an unmarked Pierce City cemetery plot. The roadblocks they encounter point to the difficulties facing reconciliation and reparation.
Banished shines light on a compelling story largely unacknowledged by history, a story that must be illuminated so we can better understand race relations and move forward.