The NJ Film Festival spotlights a documentary on a lesser known segregation battle in Enfield, North Carolina that was inspired by the epic March On Washington.
The film “The 9 O’clock Whistle” co-directed by local Civil Rights legend Willa Cofield and Karen Riley. It addresses a community’s protest response to a long standing degrading curfew African American residents of Enfield had to endure. On Saturday evenings, at 9pm, a siren would go off alerting African American residents to leave the downtown area or face arrest or worse.
Cofield, a pioneering educator in that community, endured a Klan cross-burning at her home and being fired for teaching students and community members how to register to vote. She won her lawsuit against the school system that saved the lives of legions of others facing a similar fate had her lawsuit not prevailed.
Ms. Cofield, now a spry 92, has been a long standing resident of Plainfield and an esteemed elder member of the People’s Organization for Progress for years.
“The question rarely asked about the March On Washington is what did it inspire,” asked Lawrence Hamm, founding chair of the People’s Organization for Progress. “It inspired actions like this all over of the country that boosted the participation of ordinary people of the African American working class into the very heart of the Civil Rights Movement. Stories like this must be told and appreciated.