Black History Month: Documentary screening on famed civil-rights lawyer Wendell Freeland | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Black History Month: Documentary screening on famed civil-rights lawyer Wendell Freeland

A film about the civil-rights icon screens on Feb. 9 in McKees Rocks at Focus on Renewal

click to enlarge Wendell Freeland
Wendell Freeland
Part of Pittsburgh City Paper's month-long celebration of Black History Month
Wendell Freeland is an icon in Pittsburgh’s civil-rights world. The lawyer’s work included integrating the Highland Park swimming pool, representing clients who couldn't pay, and getting local schools to hire Black teachers. On top of that, he also flew with the famed Tuskegee Airmen of WWII.

On Sat., Feb. 9, Pittsburghers will get a chance to learn even more about Freeland during a screening of the documentary Wendell Freeland: A Quiet Soldier, directed by Pittsburgh native Billy Jackson and premiered in 2017.

"Wendell Freeland devoted seventy years to fighting injustice wherever he found it,” Jackson said in a press release. “He blazed a trail for racial equality by working largely behind the scenes in America’s courtrooms, boardrooms, and political backrooms.”


Freeland was able to pass as white thanks to his light skin tone, but he was born into a segregated Baltimore neighborhood and attended Howard University, the historically Black college. He worked as a lawyer in Downtown Pittsburgh for decades. Freeland passed away in 2014.

The documentary explores the tales of Freeland’s life, service, and civil-rights quest. The film’s soundtrack includes various renditions of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Black National Anthem that Freeland often referenced as his inspiration. The screening, hosted by the African American Celebration of the Arts, will take place at the Braverso theater at Focus on Renewal in McKees Rocks.

A reception precedes the screening. After the film, viewers can participate in a Q&A with producer Tom Poole.

Wendell Freeland: A Quiet Soldier. Sat., Feb. 9. 2-4 p.m. 500 Chartiers Ave., McKees Rocks. Free. forstorox.org

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