Dare Not Walk Alone (DVD Review)9 Nov, 2008 By: Holly J. Wagner
Documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement are almost a genre unto themselves, with so many to choose from. Some stick to newsreel footage and historical dissection, others do more to put events in historical context.
In that regard, Dare Not Walk Alone succeeds beautifully. It takes viewers to St. Augustine, Fla., one of the flashpoints of the Civil Rights Movement that has received less attention in recent years but was every bit as much a powder keg as Memphis or Selma.
Segregation was deeply ingrained in the “City of the Centuries,” where the slave market still stands as a tourist attraction. After a history lesson on the attempts to integrate businesses and public beaches, the film moves forward through time to show the more subtle effects of racism in a place reluctant to let go.
Present-day St. Augustine is much improved, but it still has a ghetto section where bitter poverty rules. The city and surrounding St. Johns County is one of the few in Florida that refused Section 8 housing subsidies for the poor, so some neighborhoods in West St. Augustine look like a third-world country where even the public infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate beyond repair.
It’s a microcosm of what still remains in so much of the country 40 years after the marches: poverty alongside plenty; unspoken limits on access and opportunity; few options for rising above the situation. Rap music has joined professional sports and the military as the tickets out of poverty.
Efforts to heal also get special attention. Change is slow, but it’s happening, even here.
This is a Civil Rights film for the modern age. It serves as a reminder of dark days past, and recognizes progress as well as the work that remains to be done. It’s especially relevant considering the United States just elected its first black president.