Leading civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump has set his latest Hollywood project, joining the producing team behind the film “Freedom Ride,” which dramatizes the experiences of the original Freedom Riders, including the late Rep. John Lewis.
Crump’s Brooklyn Media will produce the film with The Hideaway Entertainment and INDE Companies. The news comes less than a month after civil rights legend and longtime U.S. congressman Lewis died at 80 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. It also comes on the 55th anniversary of the landmark passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibited discriminatory practices in voting.
“This film is not only timely with the recent passing of Congressman John Lewis, it is timely because it will help to preserve the legacy of John Lewis for younger generations to come,” Crump said in statement. “This story will resonate with the world today because John Lewis was an original voice for Black Lives Matter back in the 1960’s before anyone had ever contemplated a Black Lives Matter movement that lives today. This is why I felt it is so important to support and be a part of this production because it speaks to the past, the present and most certainly will speak to the future.”
Crump is best known for his work as one of the nation’s foremost lawyers for social justice, representing the families of of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Nakia Jones, Danny Ray Thomas and Stephon Clark, as well as the residents of Flint, Mich., as the founder and principal owner of Ben Crump Law.
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In 2018, Crump founded Brooklyn Media, through which he produced the documentary “Woman in Motion” (which followed “Star Trek” actress Nichelle Nichols as she recruited for NASA’s space shuttle program). Crump has also appeared in 2017’s “Marshall” and executive produced A&E’s “Who Killed Tupac?”
“It’s such a blessing to have Ben Crump join this Ride,” added producer Kim Leadford. “Our team has always seen this film as a playbook for activists in America’s long struggle for Civil Rights. Ben, a central figure in today’s continuum of the Civil Rights Movement, will be integral in tying the past to the present as we create that impact for current and future Freedom Fighters. His love, admiration and respect for the late Congressman John Lewis, will enrich the Congressman’s legacy through storytelling.”
The film is based on first-person accounts by a dozen of the original Freedom Riders including a then 20-year-old Lewis. Leadford (“The Butler”), Matthew Rhodes (“Shot Caller”) and Mark Harris (“Crash”) will produce the film, with Crump, Charles Bonan (“The Butler”) and The Hideaway Entertainment’s Jonathan Gray and Kristy Grisham as executive producers.
A breakdown for the film explains:
Written by Steven Vosburgh and Dusdi Fissette, the film is set in 1961 and details the actions of a multiracial group of young activists, led by twenty-year-old John Lewis, as they decide to take matters into their own hands in the fight against racial discrimination and hate. After signing their own last wills and testaments, these determined Freedom Riders journeyed by bus into the deep segregated South where mob violence and police brutality against Black Americans run rampant. Even with federal law on their side, they are brutally beaten, arrested, and firebombed, all the while remaining nonviolent in the face of violence. In the end, their refusal to back down forces the government to finally take action and desegregate all the buses, trains, public places and facilities used in interstate travel. Never before, with the exception of war, have young Americans been willing to die en masse for the cause of justice. Never before have young Americans changed the hearts and minds of the world in the name of equality.
Vosburgh credits the late Congressman Lewis for “providing the initial spark” for the film in 2005. The screenwriter and documentarian was traveling the country to compile an oral history from more than a dozen of the Freedom Riders, but recalls Lewis encouraging him to dramatize the story “in order to reach a wider audience and share the dangers the activists took.” To craft the story, Vosburgh also worked with journalist and political figure John Seigenthaler, who was a key player in Robert Kennedy’s justice department, and ultimately became one of the key protagonists in the script.
The film is targeting a production start date in summer 2021 with plans to shoot in Atlanta and Birmingham, Ala.
Crump is represented by UTA and Curated By Media.