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Civil rights film includes Oxford man

OXFORD — In 1964, the Rev. Bill England was a young chaplain at Boston University, a husband and father, when he traveled down to St. Augustine, Florida, to advise and protect college students who’d gathered there to promote civil rights. 

England would be badly beaten by Ku Klux Klan supporters. He would be thrown in jail twice — once with Martin Luther King Jr. He would bear witness to one of the most crucial campaigns of the Civil Rights Movement.

“The kids . . . they were the ones who were right on the front,” said England, 85, now retired and living in Oxford with his wife, Charlotte. “You were always worried about the children.”

This Sunday, an award-winning documentary about that time, “Passage at St. Augustine,” which includes photos of England in St. Augustine, will be shown in Yarmouth.

“It became a national campaign; it entered the world stage,” Clennon King, the Boston filmmaker responsible for the documentary, said. “Suddenly, everyone’s eyes were on St. Augustine. England was there at the very, very beginning.”

The hourlong movie will be shown at 4 p.m. in Lewis Hall at Merrill Memorial Library. The screening will be free and open to the public. 

Included in film are the arrests of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mary Parkman Peabody, the mother of then Massachusetts Gov. Endicott Peabody. They were taken into custody with England. 

Although England won’t be able to attend the screening, the filmmaker will appear with Peter Bancroft, another Mainer who had been involved in St. Augustine. Bancroft, who was from Waterville and now lives in Brooksville, joined in the St. Augustine Civil Rights Movement during his junior year at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Bancroft and King will participate in a discussion and a question-and-answer session following the screening.

“Courageous individuals like Rev. England and Peter were key to the movement’s success,” said King, whose father was a lawyer for Martin Luther King Jr. but is not related to the civil rights leader. “In the racially charged atmosphere America now finds itself in, their stories are both timely and relevant, offering us a chance to mark history and decide whether we want to repeat it.”


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