The movie Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun is a documentary murder mystery about the filmmaker’s family, set in lower Alabama, 18 miles north of the Florida state line.
On an October night in 1946, S.E. Branch twice shot a man named Bill Spann in the small neighborhood market that Branch owned. Two days later, Spann died in a segregated black hospital.
Branch was white-a Klansman-and Spann was black. Branch claimed self-defense, but despite that claim and the political climate in Dothan, Alabama in 1946, Branch was charged with first-degree murder. S.E. Branch was the artist’s great granddaddy, on his mother’s side.
Everyone says they looked alike. That this story echoes across decades and generations says much about the distance travelled by U.S. society since 1946.