Documentary Probes History of Coconut Grove School, Segregated Community


Without any of the trappings of a Hollywood premiere, a documentary made by University of Miami law students in the Historic Black Church Program's Oral History Project had its first public screening at a Coconut Grove school that is at the heart of the film's real-life story.

The documentary, titled "G.W. Carver: A Community School," focuses on Carver from its inception more than a century ago to its integration in the wake of the Civil Rights Act. The film – made in collaboration with the Coconut Grove Ministerial Alliance, Ransom Everglades School and the University of Miami School of Communication – features a number of notable African-American figures who attended Carver and went on to leave a lasting impression not only on Miami's Coconut Grove community but the nation.

The premiere, hosted by Miami Law's Center for Ethics and Public Service, took place on Thursday, April 5, at 6 p.m. at the G.W. Carver Middle School, 4901 Lincoln Drive.

CEPS' Historic Black Church Program Oral History Project uses filmed documentaries to compile historical archives for church congregations and ministries. Students conduct videotaped interviews with congregants and ministers, edit the film, and organize panel discussions on the subjects at issue. Two earlier films focused on the history of the West Grove and the West Grove churches.

G.W. Carver – which includes elementary and middle schools – can trace its history to 1899, when it was known at The Little Schoolhouse. In 1943, the year George Washington Carver died, it was named after him. Carver was a scientist, botanist, educator and inventor who is believed to have been born into slavery in Missouri in 1864. Carver was the first black student and faculty member of Iowa State College. He later became director of agriculture at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, where his pioneering research of 300 uses for the peanut led to multi-crop farming that saved the South's economy.

For decades, the Carver school's students lived under Jim Crow laws, segregated from whites in all aspects of everyday life, the school's website says. Carver was desegregated in 1970 by court order.

CEPS' Historic Black Church Program is headed by law Professor Anthony V. Alfieri, director of the Center for Ethics and Public Service, which for more than a decade has been immersed in helping the distressed areas of the Coconut Grove community. Cynthia McKenzie is the program's manager. The documentary project had as collaborators the UM School of Communication's Kim Grinfeder, an Assistant Professor in Visual Journalism, and Visiting Professor Maggie Steber; Don Cramp Jr., the Dean of Students at Ransom Everglades School; and UM law students Erica Gooden, 3L; Erika Kane, 3L; Quinshawna Landon, 3L; Amanda Darlington, 2L; Alexa Diambois, 2L; Pamela Adewoyin, 1L; Jewell Reddick, 1L; and Christine Tudor, 1L.