Barbara Smith Conrad documentary to air this summer

Allison Harris

More than 3.2 million people can watch a documentary this summer about one of the first African-Americans to attend UT and who became a world-renowned opera singer.

AT&T is offering “When I Rise,” a documentary about Barbara Smith Conrad, free to its U-Verse TV customers for 90 days. The documentary, produced by UT’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and sponsored in part by AT&T, features a special introduction by AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson.

Gail Torreano, senior vice president of AT&T employee communications and sponsorships, said the film aligned with the company’s commitment to diversity and the arts.

“This real-life story is one that undoubtedly will inspire anyone and everyone who sees it, and that’s something we’re proud to be a part of,” she said in an email. “It aligns with our goals of supporting diversity, education and enriching our communities.”

The documentary details how Conrad was expelled from the cast of a 1957 UT production after she was cast opposite a white boy in a romantic role. Conrad said she is excited by the documentary’s further distribution.
“It’s nothing I expected, nothing I planned for, but it gave me an amazing opportunity to connect with my youth,” she said. “A very exciting part of my life was the beginning of integration at UT.”