Filmmaker Ed Pincus worked and taught in the 1960s and 70s to develop a direct cinema approach to social and political problems. In 1965, Pincus spent ten weeks in Natchez, Mississippi, filming the lives of ordinary people in the Civil Rights Movement from which he developed two seminal black and white 16mm documentaries. His first film, Black Natchez, telecast on NET Journal, charts early attempts to organize and register Black voters and the formation of a self defense group in the Black community.
Black Natchez (1967, 62 min.) was shot the week following the murder of Wharlest Jackson, the treasurer of the Natchez branch of the NAACP. Jackson had been working in the Armstrong Tire and Rubber Plant, and had recently been promoted to a position that had been previously held by white workers. On the evening of February 27, 1965, a bomb detonated in Jackson’s pickup truck and killed him. He had received threats at the plant, and the incident highlighted the continued presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Natchez. In the week that followed, the African American community, along with local and national civil rights activists, gathered to address the problem. What Pincus captured were the protest marches, community meetings, and general public sentiment following Jackson’s death. The rolls of film he shot are genuine, often candid, portrayals of a community in a time of turmoil. At times, Pincus and his partner, David Neuman, turn the camera on an individual and interview him. Interviewees range from prominent civil rights leaders, including Charles Evers, to more representative residents, and they are asked to express his or her thoughts and feelings about racial tensions and violence in the city. The film also chronicles the tensions between the NAACP and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, both of which were operating in Natchez.