Search Museum of the Moving Image


Nothing But a Man


With its understated performances, loose and realistic writing, and camerawork that borrows from cinéma vérité, Nothing But a Man is a unique and devastatingly powerful depiction of black life in 1960s Alabama. The story centers on the struggles of a poor, young railroad worker named Duff and his schoolteacher wife, as they try to raise a family amid the structural poverty and day-to-day racism of the Jim Crowe era. While he is always polite and congenial, Duff refuses to be racially intimidated or defer to the authority of whites, and he and his family suffer for it. Despite being a festival hit upon its completion in 1964, the film was unable to attain distribution, and was all but forgotten until it was finally given a release and added to the National Registry in 1993. It is now considered a forward-looking classic of the Civil Rights era, and a milestone of American independent cinema.

Free with Museum admission.