Is America Still in the 1960s? This Video Shows Civil Rights Is Still a Struggle

A trio from 72andSunny New York worked on the project

The video contrasts scenes such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s speaking in 1963 and Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother, in 2020.

To many, the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s seem a distant memory. But watching police crack down on protesters as a movement spread nationwide also makes it feel like it could be happening today.

A new video, created as a passion project by a trio of 72andSunny New York staffers, highlights how what happened 60 years ago is eerily similar to what’s playing out on streets across America in 2020.

The 2-minute film is equal parts rallying cry and history lesson. Set to Michael Kiwanuka’s “Black Man in a White World,” imagery from the era 60 years ago in the left of the frame matches to today’s civil action, including the response from police and authority figures. The juxtaposition is striking and shows that inaction about racism has created a similar scenario despite the calendar moving forward six decades.

The core team of the project comes from different racial backgrounds. Jon Krippahne is a junior art director at the agency, while Justin Joo is a junior writer. Key to ensuring the accuracy, impact and efficacy of the message is 72andSunny talent coordinator Alex Brueggeman, who is of Haitian descent and served as historical consultant. While the project’s message is in support of Black Lives Matter, it was not created as an official video for the movement.

“We were taught in school that racism ended in 1964,” said Krippahne, who is white and grew up in New Jersey. “Then we started seeing these videos all over Instagram, and it’s so eerily similar to the videos [from the 1960s].”

Both Krippahne and Joo, who is of Asian descent, pored over hundreds of historical and current videos and, with Brueggeman’s direction, put together a cohesive narrative that put events like Bloody Sunday, the march across Selma’s Pettus Bridge, and activists like Angela Davis and Fanny Lou Hamer against strikingly similar daily occurrences at protests in America.

“We’ve been digging deep [on these videos] for maybe a few weeks, versus [experiencing the] oppression of a people for 400 years,” noted Joo. “That put in perspective that we’re feeling this uncomfortable, and that’s the point. As an ally, we’ll never truly understand what it feels like. We learned that through the process.”

For his part, Brueggeman, who is trained as an anthropologist, felt that it was crucial to expand the aperture beyond the stereotypical Civil Rights figures who U.S. students learn about, like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks.

“Those are the three main folks taught in the American school system,” he said. “But who are the activists propelling the movement forward at the grassroots level?”

Additionally, Brueggeman sees some of the power in the film in its ability to confront “the historical amnesia in this country,” and seeing that even in the recent past “that absolutely nothing has changed.”

“Having the past and the present juxtaposed like that forces people to look at the structure of racism and race in America, not as a feeling but as a construct—to see that this is a macro problem that is ongoing, and has been for centuries now. And I think it’s really important that people see that.”

Creatives: Jon Krippahne and Justin Joo
Editor: Stephania Dulowski
Historical Consultant: Alex Brueggeman
Researchers: Chris Stadler & Marie Ribieras

@zanger Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.