Michael Middleton

“Only the Educated Are Free: The Journey of Michael Middleton,” produced by the University of Missouri, will premiere 7 p.m. Friday, September 13 at the Missouri Theatre, 203 S. 9th St. in Columbia.

The documentary tells the story of Michael Middleton, civil rights activist and attorney, the first black law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, and a trailblazing administrator at Mizzou.

“There was a major, systemic, structural racism within the South that I could not put up with,” Middleton said about his civil rights activism. “I wanted to be part of the movement to get rid of that.”

He returned from retirement in November 2015 to serve as interim president of the University of Missouri System when Mizzou was roiled by the aftermath of a black-led student protest movement.

“We’ve got to understand the ugly, ugly history that permeates everything we do in our institutions in this country,” Middleton said, “and once we get the truth on the table I think we are poised to reconcile those differences and move forward.”

He came out of retirement a second time in 2017 to serve briefly as interim president at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. That same year, the St. Louis American Foundation honored him as Lifetime Achiever in Education.

The screening is free and open to the public. The trailer may be viewed at https://vimeo.com/354750848.

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