Through Native Eyes: The Henry Berry Lowry Story. Videotape. Production, direction, and story by D. Van Coleman. “A NoDoze Production of a D. Van Coleman Film,” 1999. 52 min., 22 sec.
Visually attractive and feelingly acted, this video provides an enjoyable and accessible overview of the historical background of the Henry Berry Lowry period. It also captures well the importance of Henry Berry Lowry and Rhoda to the Lumbee people.
The story is framed within the context of the Sachem (played by Carnell Locklear) who answers the questions of Lumbee children: “What are our traditions? We have no past other that the one the White man gives us.” The Sachem replies, “Our truth flows from the lips of our people,” and begins to narrate the Henry Berry Lowry story.
The events shown in the video give just the right amount of historical detail to set the context and to present the issues and conflicts involved in the Henry Berry Lowry story. We see that the Civil War has left people hungry and impoverished on both sides of the conflict and has provoked some Union soldiers to use unscrupulous methods to obtain goods and land that don't belong to them. We see Henry Berry Lowry's family - which has meat and owns 1,000 acres - victimized by the Home Guard, who planted “contraband” on the property in order to justify raiding it. The video shows us the “mock” trial at which the Home Guard invokes martial law because of the Lowry family's possession of contraband. Allen Lowry (Henry Berry's father) and William Lowry (his brother) are executed, and their land and possessions appropriated. Henry Berry watches the executions from behind trees - and vows revenge on those responsible.
The video uses clear, straightforward dialog and spare enactment of key scenes to get across the violence inherent in the Lowry band's activities. Also made clear are the strong support they had from the Indian community and others; and the “ethics” of Henry Berry in carrying out his mission, which involved both revenge and “looking after our own after the war.” Lowry was often described as polite. He avoided bloodshed when possible, and he only stole from those who could afford to give up something. Henry Berry and Rhoda's romance, marriage, and feelings that their happiness as a couple were being delayed are well presented by attractive actors and carefully chosen scenes.
Other key scenes and lines that will be familiar to those who have read the major writings on Henry Berry Lowry include Henry Berry's statements that “Robeson County is the only land I know” and “if we're gonna die, then [I want] to die game”; Henry Berry's filing himself out of a jail cell; and Henry Berry, caught alone by a group of bounty hunters, fending them off single-handedly by shooting from behind his upturned canoe. In a particularly moving scene, onlookers of all races sing “Amazing Grace” with a Lowry Band member prior to his execution by hanging. Carnell Locklear - well known for his long participation in “Strike at the Wind!” - is an effective narrator and Sachem. Timothy Jacobs gives a feeling performance as Steve Lowry. The background music - primarily flute and piano - is poignant. The film's credits list nearly 300 individuals and organizations who appear in the film or who supported its production in some way.
The video was added to the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, as part of the Local Legacies Program. Congressman Mike McIntyre nominated it for this honor. The American Folklife Center does not plan to make the video available online.
This video is no longer available for purchase. The only known library location is the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center. Materials must be used on-site. (April 18, 2007).