MUSKEGON, Mich. — Airing this Sunday on 13 ON YOUR SIDE in honor of Black History Month, a documentary that explores the struggles of African Americans as they migrated from the south up north during World War II.
We spoke to the filmmakers and Muskegon natives about the lasting legacy of the movie.
The soft dulcet tones of actress and American icon Cicely Tyson narrate the award-winning documentary, “Up from the Bottoms: The Search for the American Dream” by brothers Jim and Rod Schaub.
“Actually, the inspiration came from a friend of my brother's, he was Dr. Jackson, who had been recording his patients on cassette tape telling their stories about coming up north," said Jim, producer and director.
The challenges and tribulations faced by the Black community in Muskegon were not something taught in school.
“I think one of the things that impacted me was the subtle forms of racism like one woman telling a story about being shunned. Like our first day at work, she walked into the powder room, and they all walked out," said Jim.
Powerful stories have stayed with the filmmakers since their release in 2009.
“What was great about our documentary is we let them speak in their words, you know, we didn't have an agenda of what we're trying to prove. Let's turn the camera on, and let them tell their story," said Rod, producer.
Songs from local musicians and greats like Miles Davis and Stevie Wonder were integral to the film, but the "pinch me" moment came from Tyson in the recording studio.
“She narrated her first line in the recording studio, and she looked at us and said, do you think that's okay? And we fell on the floor, you know, it's so incredible," Rod said.
And it's an incredible film worth watching.
“I think it will open their eyes to what African American people have gone through in our country. And I think it will reveal to them how much more work we have to do and how much, you know, there's still a problem in this country with systemic racism and discrimination against people of all colors," Jim said.
The filmmakers are now working on a documentary about Buster Keaton, a silent film actor, who spent his childhood in Muskegon.
You can watch "Up From the Bottoms" this Sunday here on 13 ON YOUR SIDE at 5 p.m. or on demand on our streaming app, 13+.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.
Have a news tip? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our Facebook page or Twitter. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.