WGCU to premiere ‘Long Ride Home’ on May 19
At 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 19, WGCU will premiere the documentary “Long Ride Home,” about life in Southwest Florida during desegregation. The program features interview with residents of Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, Punta Gorda, Naples, Lehigh Acres, Cape Coral and Fort Myers.
Told from the perspective of long-time residents, the documentary tells the story of segregated Fort Myers restaurants, theaters and hotels, as well as the barriers African-Americans faced on buses and trains.
Helping to tell the story of a Long Ride Home is Harriet Myers, the president of the Lee County Black History Society. Born in Fort Myers and a 1967 graduate of the segregated Dunbar High School, Myers recalls that “we rode on the Seaboard railroad and we had to carry our lunch because we were not allowed to eat in the dining car.”
Dr. Martha Bireda, executive director of the Blanchard House Museum in Punta Gorda, says in the documentary, “I actually characterize travel for blacks during that period as being inconvenient, very humiliating and anxiety ridden. There was always anxiety.”
The 30-minute documentary, produced by freelance producer Shawn Holiday, under the direction of WGCU Executive TV Producer Barbara Linstrom, also features interviews with several members of Sanibel Island’s Gavin family, who tell of the stark contrast between life on the island and realities in Fort Myers.
The Gavin family interview took place in the courtyard at Rosie’s Market & Deli, a business owned by Irving Gavin, son of Eugene Gavin. Several members of the Gavin family — there were 18 brothers and sisters — recalled attending segregated schools on Sanibel and having to enter establishments from the back door.
The documentary is hosted and narrated by WGCU-FM Radio Gulf Coast Live! host Valarie Edwards.
WGCU’s “Long Ride Home” is followed by an encore presentation of the new PBS documentary, “Freedom Riders,” at 8:30 p.m. This two-hour “American Experience” documentary tells the story of the 400 black and white Americans who risked their lives in 1961 by traveling together on buses and trains through the Deep South.
“Freedom Riders” premieres WGCU-TV on Monday, May 16 at 9 p.m.