It may be the greatest story you never heard.
Walk With Me: The Trials of Judge Damon J. Keith tells the story of ten extraordinary years, four groundbreaking cases, and one unconventional federal judge, whose rulings forever changed the face of civil rights in the United States.
Judge Damon J. Keith was first appointed to the U.S. District Court in Detroit, in 1967, only three months after race riots tore apart the city. A rookie judge and an African American, he faced controversy almost immediately when, in an unusual confluence of circumstance, four divisive cases landed on his docket—all of which concerned hidden discriminatory practices that were deeply woven into housing, education, employment, and police institutions. Keith shook the nation as he challenged the status quo and faced off against angry crowds, the KKK, corporate America, and even a sitting U.S. President.
As Judge Keith was reshaping civil rights at the local level, his rulings began setting precedents for change across the nation. Ultimately, the Supreme Court upheld every one of his decisions. There would be no going back.
Walk With Me is deliberately structured as a tapestry, rather than a chronicle, in order to create balance between an intimate portrait and interesting legal history. In his own words, the Judge recounts the significant emotional events that shaped his life, how he came to his decisions on these groundbreaking cases, and his thoughts about the impact of those rulings then, and now. The film interweaves Judge Keith’s life with those of his colleagues, his contemporaries in the struggle for civil rights, his daughters, and most movingly, the people whose lives were changed by his decisions, whether he ruled in their favor or against them.
Now 93, Judge Keith still serves on the US Circuit Court of Appeals; a living embodiment of nearly a century of US history. He was once an ordinary “colored” man; a janitor whose personal struggles reflected those of a nation first coming to terms with civil rights. He became a fearless and extraordinary judge whose rulings resonate with surprising relevance in a nation still arguing about ‘”which lives matter” almost 50 years later.