What a perfect film for the disturbing days after a white extremist mob invaded the US Capitol just one day after Rev. Ralph Warnock and Jon Ossoff both eked out hard won victories for the US Senate in Georgia.
The timely documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy, directed by veteran filmmakers Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortés, puts voter suppression and its attendant racism into historical context as the film traces its origins from Reconstruction to Jim Crow. The film cogently lays out, with fascinating historical footage and insightful interviews, how methods such as poll taxes, impassable “literacy” tests, gerrymandering and voter ID laws, right up to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 by the US Supreme Court, systematically disenfranchised vulnerable voters around the country but especially in the South.
It is within that context that Stacey Abrams, also one of the film’s producers and a powerful voice in it, waged a forceful campaign in Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race, making history as the first Black woman to run for governor in either major party. Her extremely close and highly contested loss to her white, male, Republican opponent in an election fraught with evidence of voter roll purging and other means of suppression, laid the foundation for Abrams’ work to register voters across Georgia. This was instrumental in the recent landmark Senate wins.
Along with interviews from other scholars and historians, All In shows how systematic practices to keep Black people from exercising their right to vote has undermined democracy and stained US history with the blood of those who were lynched, beaten and terrorized because they sought to exercise that right. That similar blatant practices continue to today is chillingly obvious. Although it is a valuable educational film, All In is far more than that. It’s a powerful testament to persistence and the unshakable belief in the one person/one vote cornerstone of democracy. That makes it not just informative, but engaging and inspiring.