'At the River' doc to screen profiles Jan. 28

Carolyn Crowder, with her back to the camera, gets ready to do an interview for her documentary, "At The River."

Under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the mass civil rights movement of the ’50 and ’60s had a strong foundation in black churches and King’s belief that social justice was integral to Christian mission. There were also allies from other faith traditions who supported the movement as a moral imperative, a stance that was perilous in the Deep South.

Under the guidance of Black Mountain resident Carolyn Crowder, an oral history project was launched to collect the stories of white Southern Presbyterian ministers who risked careers, relationships and personal safety by following their convictions during these tumultuous times. Some of the 50 interviews at the core of an in-the-works feature-length film, "At The River, will be screened at White Horse Black Mountain on Sunday, Jan. 28 at 2 p.m. Admission is by donation.

Carolyn Crowder, Ph.D, grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, at the epicenter of the historic events explored in "At The River." A member of a family sympathetic to segregation, she felt changed and “redeemed,” she said, by the witness of white Presbyterian ministers who stepped into uncharted waters to do what they felt was right.

These young ministers, often isolated in small Southern towns, were in many cases variously fired, defrocked and threatened with violence for speaking out against racial injustice. In later years, they humbly avoided talking about their courageous actions in the belief that the consequences they experienced paled in comparison to the suffering of black activists.

With many of the key players passing from the scene, Crowder felt pressured for time in documenting their stories. When possible, she spoke to the sources personally, or their spouses and adult children. The process led to other hidden narratives in this still imperfectly understood but tremendously important part of the nation's history.