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Jackson to Speak on ‘Descendant’ Film at Delta Symposium XXVIII


JONESBORO – Dr. Kern Jackson, director of the African American Studies Program of the University of South Alabama, will give the keynote presentation at Arkansas State University’s Delta Symposium XXVIII, a Convocation of Scholars event.

Jackson will introduce the documentary film “Descendant” and answer questions following the screening. The presentation begins at 10:45 a.m. Friday, March 31, in the Carl R. Reng Student Union Auditorium. The screening is free and open to the public.

The scholar has undertaken major research on folklore and oral history in southern Alabama over the last two decades. This research included documenting stories and verbal accounts in the community of Africatown. This neighborhood, north of Mobile’s downtown, was founded by descendants of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship in the United States.

His research resulted in numerous publications and projects, including a movement to document, preserve and interpret Africatown’s heritage. The most recent project has been the completion of the award-winning documentary “Descendant.”

Jackson served as a researcher for this film, and he co-wrote the script. The movie, directed by fellow Mobile resident Margaret Brown, chronicles the discovery of the ship that was sunk in 1859 in Mobile Bay. Brown and Jackson enfold the discovery of the Clotilda into a larger narrative arc that shows how residents of Africatown worked to safeguard this important part of their history. The film emphasizes the on-going legacy of this history and how it continues to play an important part of people’s lives.

The film has been invited for showing at more than 20 film festivals and has won numerous awards. Its honors include Best Documentary from Capri Hollywood, Special Jury Award for a documentary from the Sundance Film Festival, and Best Documentary Feature from the Sidewalk Film Festival.

Netflix purchased the rights to the film and provided the platform for its screening. The filmmakers note that President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, has been integral to promoting the film; Michelle Obama introduced it at Martha’s Vineyard’s African American Film Festival.

Those who have seen the film are welcome to come in for the question and answer session that begins at approximately 12:45 in the auditorium. Due to Jackson’s involvement with another screening, he will be answering questions and discussing the film through remote connections.

Delta Symposium XXVIII is sponsored by the Department of English, Philosophy and World Languages.  For more details, one many contact symposium co-chair Dr. Gregory Hansen, ghansen@AState.edu, or the department, (870) 972-3043, or visit the website AState.edu/delta-symposium.