Visiting Filmmakers Series: Margaret Brown and Kern Jackson with Descendant

Thursday, March 30, 2023 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Johnson Center, Cinema

"The past and the truth are always present."

In Descendant, award-winning filmmaker Margaret Brown returns to her hometown of Mobile, Alabama, to document the search for the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to arrive in the United States, illegally carrying 110 kidnapped Africans. The current residents of Africatown in Mobile have shared stories about their origins for generations, including ancestors transported aboard the Clotilda. The ship's discovery offers this community a validation of a history long buried.

Brown’s layered contemplation explores the interplay between memory and evidence and the question of how history passes and is preserved. The film reveals the enduring power imbalance that persists between the descendants of Timothy Meaher, the man who chartered the illegal expedition, and the descendants of those who were enslaved aboard it. The Meaher family owns much of the heavily industrialized area that surrounds Africatown. Elevated cases of cancer and illness are prevalent there, but the Africatown community persists. Residents celebrate their heritage and take command of their legacy by bringing their history to the surface.

Our event includes a screening of Descendant, followed by a conversation with director-producer-cowriter Margaret Brown and coproducer-cowriter Dr. Kern Jackson. 

"The truth is in the bits and pieces. Some folklorists are angling towards being with the historians and gathering stuff that reveals some kind of truth. I myself like when there's chaos, and it's a big fat lie." --Kern Jackson, Descendant


"Descendant is an infuriating and enlightening look at how often white supremacy alters the truth in its favor. The people of Africatown set a precedent for others who want to discover their roots and fight for deserved reparations. The mystery of the Clotilda was just one of many skeletons hiding in America’s closet waiting to be opened" (Valerie Complex, ‘Descendant’ Review: Searching For The Clotilda, The Last Known Slave Ship," Deadline Hollywood, Aug 2022).

See Descendant website here. 

Read: Anne Thompson, "‘Descendant’ Isn’t the Movie Director Margaret Brown Had in Mind," IndieWire, Nov 21, 2022.

Read Robert Daniels, "Africatown Documentary Rectifies Black Erasure by Filling Historical Gaps," IndieWire, Jan 2022).

Read: "No Oscar nomination for ‘Descendant,’ but real-world impact continues"


Photo: Roeg-Cohen

Margaret Brown was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama. Her 2008 documentary, The Order of Myths,  received the Truer Than Fiction Award at the 2009 Spirit Awards, the Cinematic Vision Award at the 2008 Silverdocs Film Festival, and the 2008 Grierson Youth Jury Award in England. Descendant won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Vision at Sundance 2022, the Directing Award at DOC NYC 2022, and the 2022 Critics' Choice Documentary Award for Best Historical Documentary, among other awards.

A Murphy High School alumna, Margaret Brown earned her BA from Brown University with concentrations in Creative Writing and Modern Culture and Media, and her MFA in Film from New York University.

Kern Jackson is the director of the African American Studies Program at the University of Southern Alabama. He specializes in African American and Southeastern United States folklore and oral narrative. Previously, he was curator of minority history for The Museum of Mobile, AL, and the project coordinator for the City of Mobile’s Tri-centennial Celebration Video Oral History Project. Dr. Jackson served as a historian on The Order of Myths. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, with a degree in English Literature and African American Studies. He has a master’s degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison in African American Studies.



This event is presented by Visiting Filmmakers Series; College of Humanities and Social Sciences; College of Visual and Performing Arts; Film at Mason; African and African American Studies; English Department; Global AffairsHistory and Art History;  University Life; and Women and Gender Studies.



#VisitingFilmmakersSeries #FilmAtMason #Descendant

For more information: 

Anjuli Singh, asingh80@gmu.edu, Exhibitions and Office Coordinator, Film at Mason

Cynthia Fuchs cfuchs@gmu.edu, Director, Visiting Filmmakers Series at Mason; Director, Film at Mason

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