Sign up for our free newsletter

Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.

THURSDAY

After the 1998 murder of James Byrd Jr. (whom three white men chained to a truck and dragged for about three miles), P.O.V., a PBS nonfiction movie project, hoped to maximize the candor of their subjects by dispatching separate-but-equal film crews to Jasper, Texas, where Byrd (who was found headless on the street pictured) was murdered: A white crew circulated among whites and a black crew among blacks. Afterward, the footage was blended into a single film, Two Towns of Jasper. It’s hard to know for sure what effect this approach had, but responses vary in both Jaspers. Still, since Black Jasper registers less surprise than sadness at the incident—”it has been going on for quite a while,” a black woman says early on—it’s a little more interesting to watch White Jasper deal with the episode. After the crime, it seems, some White Jasperians began to develop a sharper sense of the town’s racial tensions. “I don’t remember all these years [African-Americans] taking it personal, “a white resident says of the Confederate flag. “Maybe they did and they just never told us.” But other monologues start out along the lines of “Of course, no one deserves to die that way, but…#” Ultimately, what we see of the single town of Jasper seems to center on institutional life—the schools, an ecumenical, multiracial prayer service where blacks and whites sort of sing together. Come verdict time, both Jaspers gather outside the courthouse. They share hugs and handshakes, and everyone seems satisfied with the guilty verdict. Cut to nighttime scenes of blacks and whites happily dancing—separately. The film screens at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, at the Alexandria Black History Resource Center, 638 N. Alfred St., Alexandria. Free. (703) 838-4356. (Joe Dempsey)