Journalism professor, news columnist and filmmaker Frank Harris III set out on a journey across America to get to the bottom of the n-word.
Combining interviews with diverse Americans, research through hundreds of newspaper archives, and surveys of present-day news media — this film takes viewers on an engaging, informative, provocative, unforgettable journey that fosters discussion about the word that persistently rattles the chain from our past to our present.
This film began with my research on the many racial names by which Americans of black African descent have been identified over the over the centuries living in America.
My focus soon shifted toward the n-word and my desire to track its origins, as well as the experiences that Americans of all backgrounds have had with this word.
Frankly, I wasn't sure what kind of response I would receive. After all, it's not every day that a man with a camera walks up and asks about the n-word and one's first or most memorable experience with it.
The stories told by the many people I interviewed, interspersed with the word's use in America's news media, past and present, provided a compelling story that I wanted to share.
Frank Harris III
SOME OF THE FILM'S PARTICIPANTS
BRENT PECKHAM — Saranac, N.Y. "It's a word that gets used a lot."
RYAN WEARY — Richland, Miss. "I really can only accept it from my black friends."
PRIYANKA DEBNATH — Queens, N.Y. "Why would they (blacks) say it if it was offensive?"
ERICKA HUGGINS — Hayward, Calif. "I don't care about the color of the lips that the word falls out of."
SEN. DAVID. JORDAN — Greenwood, Miss. "'I didn't know they had any nigger congressmen." (Recalling words said to Charles Diggs outside courthouse at the Emmett Till trial.)
JOHN KENNETH SPRINGS —Atlanta, Ga. "Ain't none of us niggers. We're all human beings."
SEAN CAVANAGH — Montreal, Canada "I feel like if it's going to be used, everybody should be able to use it."
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT — South Africa "I can't say they called me the 'n-word'; they called me 'nigger.'"
CHELSEA VANDERLIP — Montpelier, Vt. "It's a tough situation as a white person to answer or to say too much about it."
MARIO LEWIS — San Diego, Calif. "N-i-g-g-a is n-i-g-g-e-r — still!"
RYANNE BOYER —Magnolia, N.J. "I love that word."