Mary Ludwig and Zeke Sorenson, a history instructor and student engagement & diversity coordinator at Laramie County Community College respectively, have collaborated to create an annual event screening historical movies that provides the audience an opportunity to analyze them.
The 1961 film, “The Children’s Hour,” starring Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and James Garner, was the first movie to be screened on Sept 29. It is the first film, to Ludwig’s understanding, to raise awareness about LGBTQ issues.
“I saw it over the summer, and I thought it was so interesting and would hopefully create a good conversation,” Ludwig said. “I thought that this is something that students could watch and really have some interesting questions and comments. I hope it will elicit some good discussion.”
Ludwig wants each movie at the event to have a particular theme reflecting discussions from her history classes and gain interest from the student body. She chose to first examine the history of the LGBTQ community as part of the historical movie series.
“It’s well done, and it’s interesting from the historical sense because it’s not just about the issue of lesbianism, but also the McCarthy era as people are going after someone and don’t trust them,” Ludwig said.
While LGBTQ issues are not a main focus when it comes to the discussion of civil rights in Ludwig’s history classes, she does take some class time to talk about how LGBTQ issues existed in the colonies before the formation of the U.S., and their prevalence in modern America.
“I don’t think most Americans understand the history of that community and a lot of the laws that apply to them and how it could destroy one’s life,” Ludwig said.
As early as the 1600’s, Ludwig mentioned that there were laws in the Virginia colony against being gay. By 1961, with the exception of Illinois, all states had laws against the LGBTQ community, and people were at risk for losing their jobs or were unable to hold a position in the federal government because the rationale back then was the LGBTQ community was more susepstable to Russian bribery, deeming them untrustworthy.
Ludwig thinks LGBTQ rights and immigration are the dominant present issue in regards to civil rights in the modern U.S.
“I do think it’s a pertinent issue today, so if you look at how the laws work, what their consequences where, I think it gives you some context to critique what is being considered at a local level today,” Ludwig said. “I think that is something that should be recognized because right here in Wyoming, today, we are struggling with the so-called SOGI Act on a local basis to determine whether employers can fire people for being homosexual.”
Ludwig, who will be in charge of the discussions, says the ultimate goal with the historical movie series is for students to learn new information and have the opportunity to ask questions and make comments in hopes of good discussion.
“A lot of times when you learn about other people’s experiences that allows you to build a sense of sympathy within yourself and make you a more empathic person,” Ludwig said.
Future movies that will be shown are, “The Patriot,” which Ludwig believes will entice good discussion about the American Revolution and the movie’s inaccuracies, along with “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” based off the book which covers the history of Native Americans in the American west.