After completing my film Evanston’s Living History, I was approached by Alice Tregay to make a second documentary; this one to honor the selfless people who sacrificed for the cause of freedom and justice in the Chicago Freedom Movement.
Though Alice had contributed many wonderful photographs of her brother, former Evanston Fire Chief Sanders Hicks, to my Evanston film, I had no idea at that time of her status as heroine of the Civil Rights Movement. So it was with great pleasure that I spent time with Alice and a number of her colleagues, recording first hand accounts of historical events--which I knew only from books—including many important items those texts omitted. We hope that this new film, Alice’s Ordinary People, will inspire future generations to “take up the mantle and continue the fight.”
Alice’s life story reads like a history of the movement. Early on she fought the “Willis Wagons,” second class structures-- built to relieve over crowding in those Chicago schools which served the African American community--whose very existence perpetuated segregation.
In 1966, when Dr. King came to Chicago she and her husband James Tregay, marched along side him, often at great personal risk. It was at this time that Dr. King joined the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and the Reverend James Bevel to form Operation Breadbasket. Breadbasket fought racism on many fronts, but its main task was jobs for African Americans, particularly from those businesses drawing profits from the African American community.
Under the leadership of Reverend Jackson, the months that Alice and her group of ordinary people spent picketing led to real change. But it was through her Political Education class, as a part of Operation Breadbasket that Alice’s had her most significant impact. Over a four year period, thousands were trained to work in independent political campaigns. This new force eventually evolved into a movement strong enough to re-elect Ralph Metcalf to congress (this time as an independent democrat), to elect Harold Washington, mayor, and to make Barack Obama, the first African American President.
This film was produced in association with Shorefront an organization which “Collects, preserves and educates people about Black history on Chicago’s suburban North Shore,” and with Alice’s Ordinary People (an extraordinary group).
Alice’s story is unique in American history, and an hour program can only tell so much. It is my hope that one day a book will be written on this important subject, and preserve for posterity those aspects I couldn’t cover.
- Craig Dudnick