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The Whole Staircase: Films Celebrating 400 Years of African American History & Culture

FencesFences (2016)

Professor Paul Andrews selected this film for inclusion in The Whole Staircase Film Series. As he explains, "It is difficult to overstate the importance of the plays of August Wilson in portraying the African American experience.  His cycle of ten plays set in each decade of the 20th century in Pittsburgh’s Hill District – the August Wilson Century Cycle -  establishes him as the pre-eminent American dramatist since Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams.  Denzel Washington’s film adaptation of Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Fences, set in the 1950’s, recently has reminded audiences of Wilson’s immense capacity to move us with its themes of perseverance, responsibility, and forgiveness.  Wilson’s epigraph to the play is worth including with the film:

               When the sins of our fathers visit us

               We do not have to play host.

               We can banish them with forgiveness

               As God, in His Largeness and Laws."

Professor Paul Andrews has taught composition and literature courses at SJR State College since 1992. In addition to freshman composition courses, he teaches creative writing and American and Irish literature courses on the St. Augustine Campus. He is organizing a sixth study abroad program with colleague Chris Killmer, culminating in a trip to The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in June.

Screening Dates and Locations

April 11, 2019 with Professor Paul Andrews
Location: St. Augustine Campus Library, room L-112

Start time: 5:30 p.m.

All are welcome!

September 5, 2019 (no presenter)

5:30 p.m., Palatka Campus Library

Members of the Race Issues Study Circle will be in attendance.

All are welcome to this free event!

If you need an interpreter, please email Dr. Will at least 2 days before the event.

Film Information - Fences

"Adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a black garbage collector in 1950s Pittsburgh named Troy Maxson. Bitter about his lot in life, Maxson frequently takes out his frustrations on his loved ones." - distributor's synopsis

Directed by Denzel Washington

Runtime: 139 minutes

This film is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, and some suggestive references.

Licensed through Swank

Resources for Further Exploration: Fences

Online Resources

What August Wilson Means Now 

August Wilson and the long awaited triumph of "Fences"

Playwright August Wilson on Writing About Black America - Video and transcript from Bill Moyers' 1988 conversation with the playwright

Denzel Washington And Viola Davis On Adapting 'Fences' And Honoring August Wilson

Books and eBooks at the SJR State Library

Books may be checked out by community patrons as well as SJR State students faculty and staff. If a title is located at another campus, the book may be sent to another campus upon request.

Please note: eBooks are only accessible to currently registered SJR State students, faculty, and staff via MySJRstate due to licensing restrictions.

Celebration • Education • Reflection

H.R.1242/Public Law 115-102, the 400 Years of African American History Commission Act, establishes 2019 as a year of "commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies, at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619."  The commemoration is intended “to recognize and highlight the resilience and contributions of African-Americans since 1619; to acknowledge the impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination had on the United States; and to educate the public about the arrival of Africans in the United States; and the contributions of African-Americans to the United States.” In recognition of this commemoration and with the Act serving as a guide, the SJR State Library has organized a year-long series of events that will provide educational experiences and resources to students and the community that celebrate the history and culture of African Americans.

Site created and maintained by Dr. Christina Will. Pages will be added and maintained throughout 2019.
Maintenance will cease at the end of 2019 but this site will remain accessible.

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St. Johns River State College, an equal access institution, prohibits discrimination in its employment, programs, activities, policies and procedures based on race, sex, gender, gender identity, age, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, pregnancy, sexual orientation, marital status, genetic information or veteran status. Questions pertaining to education equity, equal access or equal opportunity should be addressed to the College Title IX Coordinator/Equity Officer: Charles Romer, Room A0173, 5001 St. Johns Avenue, Palatka, FL 32177; (386) 312-4074; Anonymous reporting is available at Inquiries/complaints can be filed with the Title IX Coordinator/Equity Officer online, in person, via mail, via email or with the US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, Atlanta Office, 61 Forsyth St. SW Suite 19T10, Atlanta, GA 30303-8927. | St. Johns River State College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. Questions about the accreditation of St. Johns River State College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097, by calling 404-679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (