January 25, 2006 News & Features » Cover Story

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Carmela Hamm 

Filmmaker

In "Honor Bound," Hamm uses archival footage and recent interviews with the lively and engaging Hill to tell the story of the Richmonder's key role in landmark civil rights cases. Hill argued five desegregation cases in the 1950s, including Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, which became part of the famous Brown v. Board of Education, with the goal of eliminating the Jim Crow laws.

Hamm notes the courage required to fight these cases. "They would drive through different states with NAACP painted on the car windows and the windows would get shot out," she says. "They'd just replace and repaint the windows."

In 1999 Hill received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Hamm was there to capture the moment.

The financial backing for "Honor Bound" has come from Virginia sources, such as the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and businessman Jim Ukrop. The 60-minute film will be aired on the local PBS station, where Hamm works as director of the Virginia Senate sessions. But there will also be a 22-minute companion piece for school-age children. "This is not just another documentary," Hamm says. "The goal is to get into the school system with a series of similarly themed films. The next one will hopefully be about female African-American inventors, which would be in honor of my mother who would travel around Virginia during Black History Month lecturing on the subject."

"Honor Bound" was shown as a work in progress at the 2005 Virginia Film Festival. Excerpts were also shown when the NAACP honored Hill with its prestigious Springarn medal in May. The ceremony coincided with Hamm's 46th birthday, and she calls screening her work to the audience of 3,000 "the best birthday present I've ever had."

The aim is to complete the film in time for a screening around May 1, Hill's 99th birthday. Money still needs to be raised, but Hamm is optimistic: "I have a feeling that everything will work out as it's supposed to."



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