Honoring Bootjack and Red: Talamieka Brice

View of Talamieka Brice overlooking the historical marker for Bootjack and Red erected in the Duck Hill town square. Photo courtesy of Rory Doyle.
View of Talamieka Brice overlooking the historical marker for Bootjack and Red erected in the Duck Hill town square. Photo courtesy of Rory Doyle.

“It’s kind of funny, the Community Foundation was sort of involved in this (film) process from the beginning,” Talamieka Brice chuckles, reflecting.  What started as a story told by her grandmother as a young child has now blossomed into a film project about the brutal lynching of two men in Mississippi seen around the world and the process of honoring their legacy.

Several years ago, Brice was a featured speaker during the Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s History is Lunch program with Kiese Laymon, sponsored by CFM, about her documentary “5, A Mother’s Journey.” As part of this film, Brice shared the story handed down from generation to generation about Roosevelt “Red” Townes and Robert “Bootjack” McDaniels, two black men who were lynched in Duck Hill, Mississippi in 1937 by a white mob after being labeled murders of a white storekeeper. Their lynchings, distributed in photographs around the world, became the catalyst for an anti-lynching law that ultimately failed in the United States Senate.

At the end of the program, MDAH’s Chris Goodwin shared more historical documents with Brice and the idea of pursuing a historical marker for the two men.

“When he said that, my heart just lit up—to finally acknowledge this community. My grandmother told me that story, but she’s not the only one who relayed that information. I just thought of that whole community that was silent about it. They heard it and had been forced into silence about what happened. So, when Chris said that, it really meant a lot to me as a little girl just hearing that story. I felt so burdened with it.”

It would be a shame, Brice thought at the time, for the work towards the marker to not be documented. As a filmmaker, she knew she needed to dive deeper into the arc of the deaths of these men and the effect the lynching had on the local community while also documenting the process of creating a historical marker for Bootjack and Red. To help get this project to the finish line, Brice has created the Mississippi 2: Bookjack and Red Project Fund at the Community Foundation for Mississippi.

“I’m an independent filmmaker, so a lot of stuff has come out of my pocket. I am so grateful for the support I have already received. To start the process of restoring dignity back to these men, I don’t have those funds, but in community, I feel like together, we’re acknowledging what happened and starting the process of healing for us all,” Brice said.

“My 501c3 only allows me to take things so far,” she continued. “Partnering with the Community Foundation allows me to take the next step. CFM has a documented history of doing the work that works in the community. It allows me to move forward in telling these stories.”

Brice says funds raised will help with production costs, including the reenactment portion of the film. While the lynching photos of the men were widely distributed around the world, most do not know about their lives. As time passes, there are only a few left who were alive during that time to tell their recollections firsthand. Reenactments will help bring those memories to life.

“When you’re studying ancient civilizations, one of the main things that people look at is the art that was left around. Art tells a story – like the pottery pieces, the written words. I feel like my purpose at this time in my life is to be one of those scribes, in a sense, who writes down that this is the story of the people,” said Brice. “Partnering with the Community Foundation for Mississippi makes sense for the work that I’ve done because it allows me to be able to tell a beautiful story of the people.”