In the autumn of 1965, sharecroppers Mae Bertha and Matthew Carter enrolled the youngest eight of their thirteen children in the public schools of Drew, Mississippi. Their decision to send the children to the formerly all white schools was in response to a "freedom of choice" plan. The plan was designed by the Drew school board to place the district in compliance with the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, essential since without compliance, the district would no longer be eligible for financial support from the Federal government. Given the prevailing attitudes, Blacks were not expected to choose white schools. This proved true for all but the Carters.
THE INTOLERABLE BURDEN places the Carter's commitment to obtaining a quality education in context, by examining the conditions of segregation prior to 1965, the hardships the family faced during desegregation, and the massive white resistance, which led to resegregation.
In the epilogue, the film poses the dilemma of "education vs. incarceration" - a particular threat to youth of color.
While the town of Drew is geographically isolated, the patterns of segregation, desegregation, and resegregation are increasingly apparent throughout public education systems in the United States.
"Required viewing!"—Southern Changes
2004 John E. O'Connor Film Award, American Historical Association
2004 National Education Association Conference
2003 Organization of American Historians Conference
2003 School to Prison Conference, Harvard University Civil Rights Project
"Exceptional! Spellbinding! An essential purchase for all libraries."—Catholic Library World
"Editor's Choice! * * * * (Four Stars!) Highly Recommended! Excellent! Combines interviews... most poignantly and eloquently, Mae Bertha herself), compelling black-and-white archival footage, and additional commentary from other activists, the white school secretary, and fellow white students to limn a powerful portrait...The film makes it clear that Drew is a microcosm for what is happening in many other places."—Video Librarian
"The film vividly demonstrates historical agency and the personal and institutional impact of historical events, as blacks and whites from the Delta reflect on their experiences with de-segregation and re-segregation. The Carter children's subsequent divergent paths suggest the benefits and costs of the burden of their experience."—American Historical Association
"Highly Recommended! A powerful oral history and visual record of... the visible signs of racism, the effect on individuals and institutions, and the consequences of personal and administrative decisions on the lives of the people involved and the society as a whole." —Educational Media Reviews Online
"One of the best video histories of the desegregation era ever produced. An excellent example of how documentaries on the 1960s should be done. Captures on film what it means to be a courageous individual. The magisterial clarity with which this dramatic story... is told keeps the viewer's attention throughout. Indispensable to students... because the actual participants take center stage - one would be hard pressed to find this caliber of work in any other single story of this era."—Professor Curtis Austin, University of Southern Mississippi, Assistant Director of the Center for Oral History
"Asks us to reconsider our emphasis on so-called "correction" over actual education. The failures of the former are obvious; isn't it time we tried the latter?"—Julian Bond, former Georgia Assemblyman and currently a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at American University
"The real story here is the effects of segregation, desegregation, and resegregation and how society has failed to educate all its children. Recommended!"—Library Journal