Movie Review: Bishop College Documentary an insightful view of the fall of a black institution


As I watched the Rick Thompson produced documentary Bishop College: A Bridge Between the Worlds in the end I came away feeling sad. With all over the wonderful stories that Thompson is able to gleen from the black college’s 107 year history, in the end I came away quite meloncholy.

But the show scheduled for Monday night at 8PM on KERA 13 will be a bittersweet trip down memory lane for alumni of the Bishop Blue and an enlightening look at a lost Texas treasure for everyone else.

Click the tab below to hear my interview with Rick Thompson and Bobby Moten, Sr., President of the Bishop College Alumni.

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Mr. Thompson starts the story at the very beginning, the founding of Bishop College in 1881 in Marshall Texas. Marshall was and still is the home of Wiley College. The film does an excellent job of portraying the rivalry that existed between the two schools.

There’s also a great segment on Bishop’s role in the civil rights movement, including a 30 year-old Martin Luther King delivering the commencement address in 1959 and sit-ins on the Marshall square that lead to the arrest and conviction of Bishop and Wiley students.

The documentary highlights the tradition of teachers and preachers that were birthed from the campus of Bishop College, including a feature on the contributions of Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III. There are many first hand accounts of what made the campus so special and why its legacy still lives despite the fact that it’s been 20 years since Bishop closed its doors.

Thompson doesn’t dig deep into exactly why Bishop closes, though it’s obvious from his work that financial woes lead to poor decisions and court cases. It’s also mentioned that the number of clergy on Bishop’s board was not helpful though he stops short of indicting them of negligence.

Bishop College: A Bridge Between the Worlds is well worth viewing but I would suggest setting your DVR. There were a number of occasions where I found myself rewinding the show to rewatch some of the segments. The fact that all that remains of Bishop in Marshall is a street sign is more than hard to believe. But for those of us who search for any reminders of our history, at least its something.

Bishop College: A Bridge Between the Worlds airs Monday February 16, 2009 on KERA 13 at 8:00 p.m.

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