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TCC restores irreplaceable footage of interviews of civil rights leaders

A TCC-restored 1980 civil rights video features Williamsburg Foundation executive Rex Ellis as narrator with interviews of South Hampton Roads activists. The video resulted from a historical booklet written by TCC, Norfolk State and Hampton University professors.

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – (Jan. 17, 2006) – Tidewater Community College has just completed preservation and restoration of a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable, three-part video series documenting key points in the region’s African-American history - including interviews with local leaders in the civil rights movement.

Dr. Hugo Owens, honored Jan. 13 as recipient of the TCC Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Distinguished Service Award, is one of the interview subjects. Among the other interviewees are Charles Bond, Ora Churchill and Moses Riddick.

TCC volunteered to preserve the series and quickly found them to be extremely well done, says Vernon Cramer, TCC director of instructional technologies. “Despite some technical issues, these videos document important local history not covered elsewhere,” he notes. The project began in 1980, spearheaded by the Portsmouth Public Library using a National Endowment for the Humanities grant and working with the production staff at WHRO television to produce the programs. The series was hosted by Rex M. Ellis, vice president/Historic Area, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and former curator-chairman/Division of Cultural History, National Museum of American History and director/Center for Museum Studies, Division of Arts and Humanities, Smithsonian Institute.

The programs also involved TCC, with then history professor Terry Jones (now provost of TCC’s Portsmouth Campus) and history professor William Pacquette serving as two of the historians that worked on the project. Their research and work resulted in the book, Readings in Black & White: Lower Tidewater Virginia, by Jones, Pacquette, Tommy Bogger of Norfolk State University and Sarah Hughes of Hampton University, with copies still on campus library shelves. The professors also were involved in some stages of film production.

Cramer decided to restore the films when contacted in 2004 by a reporter with The Virginian-Pilot seeking a tape of the three programs to view for a story. The only copies to be found in the area were at Portsmouth Public Library and in poor condition. Intrigued, Cramer began an investigation to track down the masters and to see about obtaining new dubs for TCC files. This quickly turned into a media “rescue” mission.

“The masters were produced on a very old broadcast tape format in use at WHRO in the early 1980s,” explains Cramer, and the masters for Lower Tidewater were gone. “All that survived were less-than-pristine dubs on the old ¾” format tapes housed at the Portsmouth Public Library.”

Using those dubs, says Cramer, “we have cleaned up the image substantially and created a new digital master tape. And, fortunately, the strength of the content overcomes a few technical issues and warrants the effort to make these programs available again.”

The three parts - The Slave Era, Freedom’s Challenge, and Segregation and Integration - are now available at TCC’s campus libraries and at the Portsmouth Public Library, and will eventually be available as a DVD.



Laurie White
Media Relations

Tidewater Community College is the second largest of the 23 community colleges in the Commonwealth of Virginia, enrolling more than 36,000 students annually. The 37th largest in the nation’s 1,600 community-college network, TCC ranks among the 50 fastest-growing large community colleges. Founded in 1968 as a part of the Virginia Community College System, the college serves the South Hampton Roads region with campuses in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach as well as the TCC Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center in the theater district in downtown Norfolk, the Visual Arts Center in Olde Towne Portsmouth and a regional Advanced Technology Center in Virginia Beach. Forty-four percent of the region’s residents attending a college or university in Virginia last fall were enrolled at TCC. For more information, visit