'The Best of Enemies': Hope for Racial Reconciliation
In 1971, an electrical fire destroyed East End Elementary School, forcing the community of Durham, North Carolina to face the integration of the public schools. For the Black community, the time had come to eradicate the infamous ‘separate but equal’ myth of the Jim Crow south. Many in the White community – including the KKK – were not ready to see that happen.
Based on a true story, The Best of Enemies centers on the extraordinary relationship that miraculously grows between Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), a fearless and outspoken civil rights activist who faced off against C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a local Ku Klux Klan leader.
Ellis and Atwater co-chaired the ten-day community school-desegregation forum. What happened in those ten days is a miracle – and that is the message of this movie.
The powerful cast includes Academy Award® nominee Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) and Academy Award® winner Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), plus Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games), Anne Heche (Wag the Dog), and Nick Searcy (The Shape of Water).
At the movie premier in Durham, North Carolina, I was able to speak with members of the cast, and also some of the people who actually lived this miracle.
Taraji P. Henson said she is drawn to inspirational movies like The Best of Enemies. “It keeps me motivated to tell important, impactful stories. These are the stories I gravitate towards because they transform me as an artist. So if I’m transformed, that means that the audience will be transformed some way, hopefully, for the best. It just makes me want to do more projects like this.”