I’m excited to reveal the upcoming premiere of Her Name Was Hester, an ethnographic documentary film that shares a timeless heartfelt story and came into being as a collaborative community labor-of-love. So many community members contributed because the story represents a genuine effort at reconciliation that provides real hope and vision in a time when it is so desperately needed. I began following this story as a feminist piece, documenting a woman moving back to farm in her patriarchal home community, Dirt Town, Georgia, and I envisioned it as a short. But the story became increasingly serious and significant and before I knew it, I had invested five years in documenting because serendipitous events just kept happening, and more and more community members got involved. As we dug into the editing, we decided to omit some of the more hateful aspects of the story, much of which our society already knows more generally, and to pursue the redemption, forgiving, reparation (repair), basically to emphasize that which we hear too little of in mainstream media, perhaps because it’s so rare, or maybe because these stories just don’t get told often enough.
She came home to farm, but stories of her ancestors compelled her to cultivate reconciliation in her community.
Two decades after moving away from her rural birth community to pursue higher education and raise a family, Stacie Marshall returns to her ancestral farm in Dirt Town Valley, Georgia. She tries to focus on rehabilitating and developing the farm, but she cannot shake the reality of her farm having held enslaved humans and it haunts her. She must find a way to make amends. In this process of reconciliation and filming, she is approached by a New York Times National Food Correspondent, who joins in the documentation of the story and it ends up on the cover of the New York Times July 4, 2021. A story passed down within Mrs. Marshall’s family about an enslaved woman, Hester, who served as a wet nurse to her ancestors and was eventually buried among them, prompts Mrs. Marshall to engage in genealogical research and reconciliation efforts with her neighbors. Along the way, we learn about all the good seeds of racial healing that her Black neighbors have already sowed, and with the counsel and collaboration of her neighbors and trusted mentors, Betty and Melvin Mosley, Mrs. Marshall makes a surprising and emotional discovery that will change the community forever.
Brian C. Campbell
Brian serves Berry College as the Chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Studies, affiliate member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and as Associate Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies.