Documentary filmmaker David A. Wilson speaks at Worcester State University.

Director Says Documentary Is a Story of African American Resolve

April 12, 2010
By: Worcester State University News

David A. Wilson, writer and co-director of the documentary “Meeting David Wilson,” said he worked on this project not only to tell a story about America’s post-slavery history, but also to show generations of African Americans that they “come from a history of victors, not victims.”

“If they could have the same reaction as I did (to this story), then it would be worthwhile,” Wilson said. Wilson spoke on Wednesday, April 7 in the Student Center’s Blue Lounge as part of the Diversity Lecture Series.

As a 28-year-old African American journalist, Wilson traveled deep into his family’s past to find the answers to America’s racial divide. His journey resulted in “Meeting David Wilson.” In researching his family’s ancestry, Wilson learned of a plantation in North Carolina where his family was once enslaved, and subsequently discovered that the plantation is owned today by a 62-year-old white man—also named David Wilson—who is a direct descendant of his family’s slave master.

Discovering the other David Wilson led to a momentous encounter between two men whose ancestors were on the opposite sides of freedom. Their conversation about slavery, segregation in Caswell County, N.C., and race relations today is captured in-depth in the documentary. But it developed out of what David A. Wilson described as “one of the strangest conversations” two people could ever have and ended with the two men agreeing to meet one day. Today, they talk on the phone once a month.

Wilson told the audience he also learned that he is only three generations removed from slavery, although he believes its affects still linger in predominantly black communities such as his home city of Newark, N.J. In addition, he found out that, after the Emancipation Proclamation, his great, great grandfather founded the first black church in North Carolina. “This did so much for my self-esteem,” he said.

From slavery to the end of the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans have “had to deal with far worse things than we do today” and persevered in face of incredible challenges, Wilson said. The hardest part of the film for him “was waking up at 4 o’clock in the morning and going to pull tobacco,” he said, half joking. “To think of doing it from sunup to sundown, and to think that this was just a fraction of what they went through, you can’t help but get a little bit angry after you realize what they went through.”

Wilson finds inspiration in someone else he interviewed for the documentary, Daisy Blackwell, who is 100. In the film, she encourages him to focus on today’s problems in African American society. He hopes that “Meeting David Wilson” shows how frank and friendly dialogue can help.

In his interactive, multimedia lecture, Wilson showed pivotal moments from the film, including his conversations with the white David Wilson, clips from a DOLL test session he conducted, and comments by ordinary people about the state of race relations today.

The lecture was sponsored by the Student Center/Student Activities Office and the Disability Services Office.

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