RARE’S Documentary Film

Roosevelt High School Beyond Black and White (working title)

A documentary film by RARE and FoxWilmar Productions

This film delves into past and present issues of race at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, setting them in a larger historical context.  The story  is told mainly through the vivid personal experiences and reflections of RHS alumni, current students, staff, and parents, as well as through archival documents and interviews of education and race experts. The film portrays the long-term impact of Seattle’s racial transfer programs on Black students who voluntarily bused to Roosevelt from the Central District in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and on white students who lived in the neighborhoods around the school.

Roosevelt High School Beyond Black and White also looks at the city’s mandatory busing program that was terminated in the late 1990s in the face of white flight and opposition, and examines racial challenges at Seattle schools today, many of which echo past eras.

With US cities and their public schools effectively resegregated by geography and economics, the film asks hard questions about the persistence of racism, and about how divided school communities can increase racial awareness and equity. As such, Roosevelt serves as an example rather than as an emblem of racial problems and progress in the Seattle Public Schools.

The genesis of this film occurred in 2020, following George Floyd’s murder, when  a racially diverse group of alumni from the era of voluntary busing formed Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE), which has taken on a series of race-related projects, including this film.  Roosevelt High School Beyond Black and White is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021, with initial screenings in early 2022. The Roosevelt High School Foundation is supporting this project through serving as its fiscal agent and making a financial contribution. The film will be accompanied by a curriculum guide for use in high school classrooms and communities.

“I have no doubt the documentary film, “Roosevelt High School Beyond Black and White,” will be a profound and welcome contribution to discussions of racial equity issues at Roosevelt High School, its community and beyond. The film’s producers, Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity, are working hard – with great care – to assure the film will illuminate historical and contemporary issues of race, using personal perspectives based on interviews with Roosevelt alumni, students and teachers. The film promises to be a great teaching and learning tool, and it’s wonderful the Roosevelt High School will be the owner of the film for future generations of Roosevelt students.” -Pam Walters Eshelman, RHS 1975, and president of Roosevelt High School Foundation