South Professor's 'Descendant' Premieres at Sundance Film Festival

Posted on February 14, 2022 by Marcomm

Dr. Kern Jackson outside on campus. data-lightbox='featured'

University of South Alabama’s Dr. Kern Jackson, director of African American Studies, was recognized at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, held from Jan. 20 – 30 in Park City, Utah, for his powerful contributions to “Descendant,” a film about the 2019 discovery of the last known, illegal slave ship Clotilda and Africatown, a historic community founded by descendants of the vessel and African Americans in Mobile. The feature documentary won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award: Creative Vision at the Sundance Film Festival. Netflix purchased its worldwide rights and Higher Ground, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company, will present the film alongside Netflix.

“All of our progenitors are helping to reveal this narrative of resilience,” said Jackson. “It is an honor to be a part of this communal process. As a Folklorist, my preoccupation is with the nuances, the nooks and crannies of culture, and that is my inspiration for what I have brought to this film.

“Knowing your roots is empowering for all of us,” he added. “I am so excited to represent this film and the University at Sundance.”

The discovery of Clotilda is an invitation to discuss our past. The film examines the imbalance of power that still exists between the residents of Africatown and the power structures that are the legacy of the man who chartered the vessel.

Jackson is a co-writer and co-producer of the film, which is directed by award-winning filmmaker Margaret Brown. She, along with executive producers Kyle Martin and Essie Chambers, and producers Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann and Kate Hurwitz, as well as Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Shawn Gee and Zarah Zolman from Two One Five Entertainment brought “Descendant” to life.

“We’re all very proud of Dr. Jackson and his phenomenal work on 'Descendant,'” said Jo Bonner, president of the University of South Alabama. “He’s poured so much into this film and it’s our hope that his work inspires curiosity and drives us to unearth more lost chapters of African American history.”

For more information on “Descendant” and this year’s Sundance Film Festival, please visit

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