Of all the divisions in America, none is as insidious and destructive as racism. The powerful documentary The Long Shadow takes a shockingly candid look at America’s original sin – slavery – and traces the history of slavery from the country’s founding, up through its insidious ties to racism today. We witness from the moment of America’s birth, how slavery was embedded in principal structural elements of society, and yet, even as slavery ended, these systems still operate today in various forms, carrying out their original purpose – to diminish the social role of black people and keep them in a perpetual state of suffering.
Director Frances Causey and Producer Sally Holst, both privileged daughters of the South, were haunted by their families’ slave-owning pasts. They grew up in a time when white superiority was rarely questioned, and challenging this norm was often met with deadly consequences. Rejecting the oft-told romanticized version of early U.S. history, they embarked on a journey of hidden truths and the untold stories of how America – driven by the South’s powerful political influence – steadily, deliberately and with great stealth, established white privilege in our institutions, laws, culture and economy. From New Orleans to Virginia, Mississippi and Canada, they traveled the roads of oppression, suppression, and even hope to reveal the direct link from early slavery, Jim Crow and strong-arm Southern politics to the current racial strife and division we face today.
Interlaced with personal stories of Causey and Holst’s privileged childhood, the filmmakers present a startling, unrecognized history that provides much-needed context when considering the major issues that impact black and white relations today. By telling individual stories — of free blacks in Canada; of a modern, racially motivated shooting — the filmmakers personalize the lingering cost and the stakes of ignorance, intolerance and inaction, and how that casts a long shadow over our national identity and imperfect democracy. In addition to history, the film examines current social norms that show how oppression lives on in new, devious forms including mass incarceration, health care outcomes and life expectancy, and per-capita income based on race.