Story
III

Illuminating
Social Justice

Elevating

the voice of

outsiders

George Stevens, Jr’s creative life has been devoted in large part to heightening attention to social justice and civil rights in his work in film, television and theater.  Stevens' instinctive understanding of the power of film has given voice to  outsiders and illuminated the challenges of achieving equal justice for all Americans.

The Diary of Anne Frank

The Diary of Anne Frank was the first American film centered on the experience of the Holocaust. It is based on the diary of a Jewish girl living in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. George Stevens, Jr. worked on the film as associate producer and director of location scenes, co-managed the worldwide search to find a young actress to play Anne, and joined his father in the editing room.
“This was his first look at the director to whom he had entrusted his daughter’s story. Then, without comment, he went to a filing cabinet and pulled open a drawer. He removed an object and placed it on the table in front of us, carefully parting the cloth wrapping to reveal a small album with a red, white and beige plaid cover. We sat in silence. The pages before us bore Anne’s distinctive penmanship and photos she had pasted in of her family and her favorite movie stars.”
George Stevens, Jr. during visit at Otto Frank's House in Amsterdam
My Place in the Sun
George Stevens, Jr. directing the second camera unit on location in Amsterdam.
1958
“This child had captured the world’s imagination and in that moment we felt the weight and responsibility of telling her story.”
George Stevens, Jr.
My Place in the Sun
The Diary of Anne Frank
1959 movie by George Stevens, Sr. staring Millie Perkins

The March

“Jim Blue and I wanted people overseas to see the uplifting story of Blacks and whites petitioning side by side for the redress of grievances and perhaps conclude that only a great nation would allow such a public protest to take place—and make a film about it.”
George Stevens, Jr.
My Place in the Sun
The March
USIA documentary film produced by George Stevens, Jr. and directed by James Blue, 1963
Probably the finest argument for peaceful petition of redress of grievance that has ever been put on film.
Edward R. Murrow writing about the documentary film The March in a letter to President Johnson
1963

Nine From Little Rock

Nine from Little Rock commissioned by George Stevens, Jr. and directed by Charles Guggenheim for the USIA, documented the first nine African American students allowed to attend an all-white Arkansas high school in 1957.
Elizabeth Eckford ignores hostile screams and stares on her first day of school. source: Bettmann Archive
1957
“I called Charles Guggenheim and proposed a film that would begin with the disturbing confrontation the children faced when they entered Little Rock High with National Guard protection.”
George Stevens, Jr.
My Place in the Sun
Gloria Ray
Terrance Roberts
Melba Pattillo
Jefferson Thomas
Carlotta Walls
Thelma Mothershed
Minnijean Brown
Elizabeth Eckford
Ernest Green
Nine from Little Rock
1964 - Written and Directed by Charles Guggenheim. Produced by George Stevens, Jr.
“To you and all associates in the Agency, I send you my delighted congratulations. The fact that the USIA film Nine from Little Rock won the Academy Award last night is both a precursor and an accolade... This award points you to the future and urges you on to even higher levels of craftsmanship.”
President Johnson
April 6, 1965

The MURDER of Mary Phagan

In early twentieth-century Atlanta, the murder of a 13-year old girl prompted extreme reactions from the community, and ultimately led to the arrest and lynching of an innocent man. George Stevens, Jr. used this historical event to tell the story of classism and antisemitism. Stevens co-wrote and produced the two-part, television mini-series of the crime under the title The Murder of Mary Phagan.
The Murder of Mary Phagan is exactly what television should do more of—history with nuance, the sociology of culture”
New York Magazine
January 1988
The Murder of Mary Phagan
1988 two-part television miniseries starring Jack Lemmon

Separate but equal

Inspired by the landmark 1954 Supreme Court desegregation case and decision in Brown v. Board of Education overturning the law of separate but equal, George Stevens, Jr. embarked on a multi-year journey to produce, write and direct the three-hour television miniseries Separate But Equal, providing Stevens a new opportunity to explore social justice on a larger scale.
“This film is that rare thing—a drama about race relations not given to caricature or homily.”
Wall Street Journal
Separate But Equal
1991 two-part television miniseries by George Stevens, Jr., starring Sidney Poitier
Outstanding Miniseries

Thurgood

Inspired by Separate But Equal colleague, Sidney Poitier, to further elevate the rich history of the first African American to sit on the Supreme Court, George Stevens, Jr. explored a new creative path as a first-time playwright to create a one-man play about the life of Thurgood Marshall beyond the seminal Brown v. Board of Education decision.
“George. I know Thurgood is opening tonight on Broadway, congratulations. You know I would be there if I wasn’t running for president.”
Barack Obama
2008, My Place in the Sun
Thurgood
2011 movie directed by Michael Stevens, staring Laurence Fishburne
One of the most frank, informed and searing discussions of race you will ever see on TV.
Baltimore Sun
2011
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