A new documentary on Catholic school desegregation premiered last week, covering the saga of a group of African-American students who made history at Aquinas High School in Augusta, Ga.
Entitled “Two Classes of 1968”, the crowd-funded film explores the closure of the high school at Immaculate Conception Academy—then a Black Catholic school—which set in motion a chain of events fit for the silver screen.
“I made this film to serve as a love letter from the Class of 1968 to their old neighborhood, to generations of ICA alumni who came before & after them, and to the spirited Franciscan nuns who taught them well,” Protho said in a press release.
“They were kids who ventured out of their beautiful Black bubble, became accidental activists, and handled their unexpected assignment with dignity and grace.”
Two of the students in question are also in the film credits, with alumni Terrye Thompson and Joseph Floyd serving as executive producers and witnesses not just to the school, but to the Black community of Golden Blocks that raised them in an unforgiving era.
“[It was] an aspirational community with thriving businesses and social components,” Floyd said, adding that the school “equipped a group of students for the next step in revolutionary change in a small Southern town.”
“Sometimes learning disguised reveals itself maybe fifty years later,” Thompson added.
The film’s funders, alongside other viewers, were treated to a Q&A after the film’s premiere, wherein Floyd and others added to the voices of the filmmakers discussing the impact of the movie and the history it covers.
While the film is not yet available for streaming, it is soon to be submitted to film festivals for consideration.
“I'm passionate about being historically literate and intensely personal, and Two Classes of 1968 is a critical contribution to the cultural preservation of the Black community of 20th century Augusta,” said Protho.
“I knew this was the right film to start making my contribution.”
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).