Filmmaker Creates Documentary Honoring Civil Rights Icon Eula Johnson

60 years after making history by leading a charge to desegregate beaches in Broward County, Eula Johnson continues inspiring generations

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60 years after making history by leading a charge to desegregate beaches in Broward County, Eula Johnson continues inspiring generations.

"It's just amazing," said Janay Joseph, a Nova Southeastern University student. "To see how her work, just kind of stood the test of time."

According to a Florida heritage site designation at the Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park in Dania Beach, the site was once known as the 'Colored Beach.'

In 1954, after years of petitioning, Broward County finally a barrier island site designated for segregation, but it was not accessible because a road was never built. In response, Johnson - alongside Dr. Von D. Mizell and others - led a series of protest wade-ins on all-white public beaches. 

"I saw a photo of Eula Johnson," said Joseph. "I just saw the look of determination and courage in her face, and I wanted to know a little more about her story."

Joseph took the time to learn more about the peaceful, but powerful protester while working as an intern on History Fort Lauderdale's Civil Rights curriculum.

The wade-in's led to a court battle, which ultimately led to an order in favor of the protestors and further led to a larger civil rights movement that brought integration to local schools.  

"It's great to know that there is a local civil rights activist like Eula Johnson," said Joseph. "She's known as the Rosa Parks of the South, because of her work, she not only led the wade-ins, she was also the first woman president of the NAACP." 

Johnson lived in the historically Black Sistrunk neighborhood, not too far from where Joseph grew up. Because of that, she said she wanted to make sure more people in her community understood Johnson's impact.

That's when Joseph grabbed her camera, and went on a mission to share the journey of Eula Johnson's activism on film. 

"Before the cameras even start rolling, you go through archives," said Joseph. "You go through newspaper articles online, you gather all the research and the sources."

Now, after a year-long process, the 22-year-old film student has finished her mission and is ready to show the film. 

"This is a documentary short film," said Joseph. " And it's without the typical narrator."

Instead, Joseph says the audience will hear from the late Eula Johnson, in her own words through archived interviews. 

"She would always fight for others that were in her community, and for their rights, and would not accept any special privileges for herself," said Joseph. "It was that selflessness that I feel should be another message people take away from the film. I want people to walk away with the message of feeling empowered. That they have the chances, and the opportunities to do something to benefit their community.”

Joseph received an Independent Artist Grant from the Broward Cultural Division, which is funding a film screening.

It will air March 30th at Fort Lauderdale's African American Research Library and Cultural Center. Doors open at 5:30 pm.

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