W&M alumna to screen new film on history of lynching at Tucker Theater

Photo courtesy of Hannah Ayers
Photo courtesy of Hannah Ayers ’08

William & Mary alumna Hannah Ayers ’08 and her husband, Lance Warren, will host a screening of their latest documentary, An Outrage, Tuesday on campus.

The film is about the history and legacy of lynching in the American South. The screening will be at Tucker Theater at 6:30 p.m. A discussion will follow the film.

“We want people to walk away with the understanding that lynching was more common and more complex than we might assume. Whites used it as a tool to exert social control and instill fear, taking away freedoms that were promised to African-Americans following the Civil War. Also, lynching is not something that we can shut away as part of our past; there are echoes of it in our present day,” Ayers says.

The screening at Tucker Theater follows their March 11 premiere at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History as part of the History Film Forum. The filmmakers want their film to be used as an education tool. They have partnered with the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project to make the documentary available to nearly 500,000 teachers across the United States, according to a news release. Teaching Tolerance is also developing curriculum to use with the film.

Warren said that lynching was embedded in the fabric of the South, largely because many turned a blind eye to its presence.

“Widespread public complacency allowed lynching to continue,” Warren said. “The dangers to African-Americans in the South who might confront lynching did not only come from those who lynched; dangers came from lots and lots of white people who did not step up and demand an end to the killings. By not resisting — even if they were troubled by it — silent southern whites enabled lynching to persist.

Ayers majored in history and French while at William & Mary. She says the university helped shape her current career path.

“Though I didn't know I wanted to go into film while I was at William & Mary, my experience there shaped my approach to filmmaking in several ways,” Ayers says. “My time there instilled in me the importance of pursuing social justice. My history professors, especially my thesis advisor, James La Fleur, encouraged me to think critically about how history is presented and how it can be made relevant.”

Tickets are not needed for the Tucker Theater screening.