Local civil rights icon the Rev. Robert S. Graetz and documentary filmmaker Andrew Beck Grace of the University of Alabama headlined the annual Durr Lecture this past Sunday, April 22. Graetz shared personal stories of his experience as one of the few white supporters of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. At the height of the civil rights era, Graetz served as the white pastor of an African-American Lutheran congregation in Montgomery, giving him a unique viewpoint of the now iconic event and the civil rights struggle as a whole.
“Reverend Graetz inspired the audience by sharing his memories and giving them a new perspective on the well-known events of the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” noted Dr. Peter Zachar, professor of psychology and longtime Durr Advisory Committee member. “In doing so, he showed that history is not only made by those people who history remembers. Those whom history has forgotten were also among its makers.”
Andrew Beck Grace, a filmmaker and lecturer in the Department of Telecommunication and Film at the University of Alabama, shared a trailer for his documentary, “The Durrs of Montgomery.” The upcoming film, which will air on Alabama Public Television, tells the inspiring story of Clifford and Virginia Durr, for whom the lecture series is named. “The story of the Durrs is a remarkable one, and I'm excited to be working on a film about such principled and admirable Southerners. They represent a kind of transformation narrative that has all the hallmarks of an engaging and emotional drama,” Grace said.
After the talks, attendees joined Graetz and Grace for an intimate reception in which they were able to ask questions and continue the discussions.
Clifford Durr (1899-1975) was a native Montgomerian who vigorously defended the protections of the U.S. Constitution, particularly the rights of free speech and equal protection of the law. His wife Virginia also campaigned against the poll tax, which acted as a barrier for the voting rights of women and African-Americans. Like Graetz, the Durrs stood by their principles in the face of extreme adversity.
The Reverend Robert and Jeanie Graetz accept a framed event poster from Dr. Peter Zachar of the AUM Department of Psychology
Filmmaker Andrew Beck Grace talks with members of the audience at the post-lecture reception in Library Tower
Photos by Frank Williams