*CBS News is planning a live, multi-platform, multimedia, celeb-filled event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
On July 24 at 8 p.m., the news division will air a special titled “CBS News: 50 Years Later, Civil Rights,” featuring a live panel discussion moderated by “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer, 77, who had a front-row seat for the movement.
The program will also be carried live on cable’s Smithsonian Channel, and CBSNews.com will offer a live stream.
Schieffer was working at a small Texas radio station after being honorably discharged from the Air Force when he was sent to cover the violent riots that ensued at the University of Mississippi in 1962 when James Meredith became the first African-American student admitted to Ole Miss.
“They killed two people that night,” he recalls. “One was a reporter. I will never forget it. I had never seen the kind of blind hatred and prejudice that we saw in those days down there.”
He would not return to the Oxford, Miss., campus until 2008 when he moderated the presidential debate there between Barack Obama and John McCain.
Rep. John Lewis, a pillar of the movement and a “personal hero” of Schieffer’s, will participate in the panel discussion. So will Harry Belafonte (who also was very active in the movement), historian Taylor Branch, Jason Collins, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez, gay marriage activist and lawyer Evan Wolfson and CBS Sports anchor James Brown.
The panel will explore the violent summer of 1964, when three Civil Rights workers were murdered in Mississippi, and also take on current battles including marriage equality and gay rights.
Meanwhile, CBSNews.com will stream Walter Cronkite’s primetime special “The Search in Mississippi.” The panel, like The Beatles discussion, will originate from The Ed Sullivan Theatre in Manhattan, which is owned by CBS.
“The idea is to rethink what is a traditional format – a moderated panel – and bring that to life so that it’s entertaining and informative and takes advantage of all the distribution outlets that are available today,” says David Goodman, president of CBS Live Experiences. “That’s the interesting opportunity for us, to really change the vocabulary of what these things can be and to continue to evolve them.”
For Scheiffer, who was born before the invention of television, the event is more “than a news report.”
“It’s a celebration of how far have we come and recognition of far we still have to go,” he says. “I must say of all the things I’ve done at CBS over the years I can’t think of anything I’ve felt more honored to be a part of.”
“CBS News: 50 Years Later, Civil Rights” is the second in a series of multimedia immersive events created by CBS Live Experiences to mark significant events in history. The first, which was held in February, highlighted The Beatles’ arrival in the U.S. in 1964.