Most Texans probably aren't familiar with the story of Barbara Smith Conrad, the mezzo-soprano opera singer who was famously barred from performing in a University of Texas production simply because of the color of her skin. The 1957 incident drew the attention of national press and famously attracted the attention and support of people like Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier, but was seemingly swept under the rug and forgotten about shortly thereafter. It's certainly something I never heard about when I was a student at that very school in the 1990s.
Racism and Texas are frequently paired together in the conventional wisdom, but the liberal bubble that Austin resides in seems sacrosanct in a way that surely wouldn't allow something like this to happen. Which is exactly what makes Mat Hames' beautiful film so surprising, yet it doesn't take anything away from the pure bravado and pride exhibited by Conrad both during the event, and throughout the rest of her continuing life. When I Rise is a very powerful film about one woman, her resolve, and her talent.