Tallahassee-based lawyer Ben Crump is already a nationally renown civil rights attorney, and his story goes global when the documentary about him hits Netflix on Sunday, Juneteenth. But Crump is putting his alma mater on the same level as the Tribeca Film Festival and the American Black Film Festival with a third screening of “Civil,” this time at the Florida State University Law School.
Netflix followed Crump for almost 18 months at the height of the pandemic as the lawyer fought for the families of Black men and women, like George Floyd, who died during interactions with police. The film — produced by Kenya Barris and Roger Ross Williams and directed by Nadia Hallgren — will be available to Netflix’s millions of subscribers on Juneteenth.
Crump told Florida Politics it will be just as rewarding to premiere the documentary with law students and the Tallahassee community as it was to premiere it at the film festivals this week.
“The fact that Netflix expects millions and millions of people, not just in America but all around the world, to watch this documentary on Sunday and the fact that I get to be home with my family and my alumnus from Florida State University Law School — which had I not been given the privilege to attend the law school and get my law degree, none of this would be happening — I think it’s very, very gratifying to be in Tallahassee with the law students and the community and have our own premiere of ‘Civil,’” Crump said.
Juneteenth, which some call the Black Independence Day, marks the day the Union Major General Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas, freeing the enslaved Black people in the state. The day has gone on to become a national recognition of emancipation, and the day was declared a federal holiday last year following the national reckoning that took place with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Crump said it was a difficult decision to allow Netflix to follow him over the course of those months, but he stood by his mission to make the world a better place for future generations.
“They all have a right to the American promise of equal opportunity at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even though it was not easy to just be completely exposed, I understood that, as I always say, we have to argue in two courts, one in the court of law and the other the court of public opinion. I understood that, with this opportunity, Netflix was giving me a global bullhorn to speak truth to power,” Crump said.
Relaying a lesson from his personal hero, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Crump said he hopes to instill in young lawyers that they shouldn’t just argue what is right. They should argue what is right.
“Even if it’s unpopular, if it’s controversial, even if you are criticized for it, you stand for right, and we all know what is right in our heart,” Crump said.
FSU Law will screen “Civil” at 3 p.m., followed by a Q&A at 5 p.m. The event is open to the public.