The film “The Best of Enemies,” out April 5, portrays how real-life KKK leader C.P. Ellis was transformed and developed a budding friendship with Black activist Ann Atwater during a series of intense meetings over desegregating local schools. Ellis and Atwater’s surprising friendship, and the former’s public renunciation of the Klan, remains one for the history books. However, the two likely would have never overcome their differences had it not been for organizer Bill Riddick.
Although school integration was the law of the land in 1971, Durham, North Carolina, had yet to fully comply. N.C. Department of Health, Education and Welfare sent Riddick in to find a way to move the town forward on desegregating schools.
Riddick, known for organizing successful charrettes — meetings “in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions,” pulled one together for Durham residents to tackle desegregation. Ellis and Atwater were chosen as co-chairs of the charrette. As portrayed in the film “The Best of Enemies,” both Ellis and Atwater took some convincing before they agreed to go along with Riddick’s plan.
In this brief Q&A, Riddick explains why he felt it was necessary to have a local Klan member not only involved in the discussions, but helping lead the community meetings. He also mentions what he hopes viewers will take away from the film.