A documentary film, “A Binding Truth,” about the North Carolina history of racial divides and civil rights in the Charlotte area in 1965 and reconciliation that has been happening since then between the two hosts, will be shown at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 4) in the Deepwater Theater.
Admission is free but donations will be accepted.
Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick and De Kirkpatrick, about whom the film was made, will attend.
In 1965, Jimmie Lee Kirkpatrick made a decision that changed history and swept him into one of North Carolina’s most volatile civil rights cases, played out at the explosive intersection of football and race.
Jimmie Lee grew up in an all-black community on the outskirts of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County. His father left the family when Jimmie Lee was 11 and he was raised by his mother and grandparents. His great-grandmother worked for a wealthy white Charlotte family as a domestic worker and a cook. It was a time when there were separate white and black drinking fountains and negative consequences for crossing societal lines.
A gifted athlete like his dad, Jimmie was a sensational running back, one of the best in North Carolina. He became deeply conflicted when a school boundary changed and presented him with a choice for his senior year: Stay with friends and teammates at all-black Second Ward High, or move to affluent, white Myers Park High, that offered many more opportunities.
Almost 50 years later, in 2013, a Charlotte Observer newspaper series told of the connections between Jimmie Lee’s undefeated 1965 football season at Myers Park, a high-stakes civil rights case filed by Julius Chambers against the Shrine Bowl – the result of Jimmie not being selected to play in the iconic all-star game – and the bombings of four civil rights leaders’ homes in Charlotte.
Jimmie Lee said then he lives in two worlds: “I see my white friends and my black friends, but never together.”
Among those who read the Observer articles was De Kirkpatrick, a forensic psychologist and a white high school classmate of Jimmie Lee’s.
The two weren’t friends at Myers Park, but, because of their last name, had jokingly called each other “cuz.” They made plans to talk for the first time in nearly 50 years.
Many of those years, Jimmie Lee was in search of his genealogy, a complicated family history, and his own identity.
In a shocking phone call, he shared with De what he had discovered – that their connection went back far further than high school, to a plantation in Mecklenburg County on the eve of the Civil War. “Your great-great-grandfather owned my great-great-great grandfather.”
This truth stunned De. Learning that his ancestors were slave owners was a life-changing moment and sparked a journey for both men at age 65.
“Put aside your guilt and I’ll put aside my anger,” Jimmie Lee said to De, “and we have a chance to learn from each other.”
Although this story is rooted in the South, it is also America’s story – one of slavery’s legacy, present-day racial divide, and the hope that by learning from each other, we can heal deep wounds that many of us have never faced.
Here is a trailer for the film https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/842917169.
The film has been accepted into six film festivals.