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Article

Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

a still photographer and documentary filmmaker, was born in Houston, Texas, the second child and only daughter of the schoolteacher Mollie Carroll Parrott and the dentist Frederick Douglas Parrott Sr. At least one grandparent had been born a slave. Both parents were the first in their respective families to obtain advanced college degrees, but racism kept the family poor. The Parrotts lived in the Third Ward, one of Houston's African American neighborhoods, and Blue attended a segregated grade school. As she wrote in her memoir, The Dawn at My Back, the challenges of growing up poor and black in a racist, classist society put a shadow over her life.

Blue did not intend to pursue a career in the visual arts. She enrolled as an English literature student, specializing in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English Renaissance period, at Boston University in 1960 with the goal of becoming ...

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Born in Brooklyn, New York, St. Clair Bourne is the son of St. Clair Bourne Sr., who was an editor of the Amsterdam News and a reporter for the People's Voice in the 1930s. Although the younger Bourne began his education at Georgetown University in 1961, he was expelled for student activism. In 1967 he received a B.A. degree from Syracuse University after working with the Peace Corps. He began a degree in filmmaking at Columbia University in 1968, but was again asked to leave because of his political activities.

From 1968 until 1970 Bourne was a producer, writer, and director for the public-television series Black Journal. He established his own company, Chamba Productions, and produced African American documentary films such as Something to Build On (1971) and Let the Church Say Amen! (1973). In 1974 he received the Bronze ...

Article

Angolan anthropologist, writer, and filmmaker, was born in Santarém, Portugal, on 22 April 1941. His family immigrated to Angola in 1953, to the city of Moçamedes, where he spent part of his adolescence. He then returned to Portugal, where in 1960 he finished a course in agronomy. During these Portuguese years, he kept himself at a distance from the group of young nationalist students from the colonies, who tended to congregate around the Casa dos Estudantes do Império in Lisbon, to discuss and denounce the iniquity of the Portuguese colonial system.

Carvalho returned to Angola in 1960. He was living in the province of Uìge when, in 1961, the anticolonial activity of the Movimento Popular para la Libertação de Angola (MPLA) began, which would lead to Angola eventually achieving independence in 1975 In those years Ruy Duarte de Carvalho worked as a coffee grower and ...

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Amber B. Gemmeke

, Senegalese filmmaker and ethnologist, was born on 22 November 1943 in Fad’jal, Senegal, a small Serer village about sixty-two miles (hundred kilometers) south of Dakar, in the Sine-Saloum region. Safi Faye is the second of her mother’s seven children. Her father was a polygamous businessman and village chief, and Faye had thirteen half-brothers and half-sisters as well. Safi Faye attended primary school in Dakar and obtained her teacher’s certificate at the Normal School of Rufisque through a state contract in 1962. She worked as a schoolteacher in Dakar from 1963 until 1969. In 1966 she met Jean Rouch, the French ethnographic filmmaker and a father of cinema verité, at the World Black and African Festival of Arts and Cultures (FESTAC), in Dakar. Subsequently, she had a role in Rouch’s 1968 film Petit à petit: lettres persanes Little by Little Persian Letters Although Safi Faye ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

Safi Faye is not only one of the few independent African women film directors, but also one of the few who make ethnographic films, which document cultures. Born near Dakar, Senegal, the daughter of a village chief and businessman of Serer origin, Faye moved to Dakar at the age of nineteen to become a teacher. There she became interested in the uses of film in education and ethnology, the study of ethnic groups and their cultures. Upon meeting French filmmaker and ethnologist Jean Rouche, Faye embarked on a film career.

Faye acted in Rouche’s Petit à petit ou les lettres persanes (1968). She learned about Rouche’s style of cinéma-vérité, characterized by an unobtrusive camera and spontaneous nonprofessional acting, which influenced her own film work. With Rouche’s encouragement she moved to Paris in 1972 enrolling in the École Pratique des Hautes Études to study ethnology and in the ...

Article

Sarah B. Buchanan

, Togolese filmmaker and international legal adviser for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, was born Ayele Folly-Reimann on 31 March 1954 in Lomé, Togo, to Amah Folly (a producer at the French world-music recording company OCORA and then at Radio France International) and Juliette Reimann. She has one sister. Folly studied law in Paris at the Université de Paris II–Panthéon-Assas. She began her career as an international legal adviser for UNESCO in 1981.

In the early 1990s Folly began making films In spired by Sarah Maldoror a French Guadeloupean filmmaker and Safi Faye a Senegalese filmmaker and ethnologist whom she has called des militantes dont le travail cinématographique est inspirant car il interroge l essence des problématiques des Africaines militants whose cinematographic work is inspiring because it interrogates the heart of the problems confronting African women Folly turned to film because she considers it similar to ...

Article

Flora González

Born in Havana to a Cuban father and a North American mother, Sergio Giral has lived in Cuba and the United States. After finishing high school in Cuba, Giral spent two years studying painting at the Art Students' League in New York. Following the Cuban Revolution in 1959, he returned to live in Havana. There Giral began engineering studies but soon joined the Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficas (Cuban Institute for the Arts and Film Industry) or ICAIC in 1961. Like film director Sara Gómez, Giral belongs to the second generation of ICAIC filmmakers, who worked under the tutelage of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, the best-known Cuban director.

Giral's films include a slave trilogy—El otro Francisco (The Other Francisco, 1974), El rancheador (The Slave Hunter; 1976), and Maluala (1979)—and a film on contemporary Cuban issues, Techo de vidrio ...

Article

The son of farmers, Med Hondo was raised in the Atar region of Mauritania on the edge of the Sahara. At 18 he left home to attend cooking school in Morocco, after which he went to work as a chef in France. It was in France that he became interested in the performing arts.

Hondo began his artistic career by acting for French theater companies. Frustrated by the roles they offered him, he soon formed a theater ensemble with the aim of producing plays that expressed feelings common among Africans in Europe: exile and estrangement. To earn extra income, he also took parts in movies and television. Through this work he became fascinated with film and taught himself to use a movie camera. In early 1969 Hondo directed his first short film. By the end of the year he completed his first full-length feature, Soleil O It ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Mauritanian filmmaker and actor active in France, was born on 4 May 1936 in Atar, Mauritania. His family belonged to the prominent northern clerical family of the Barikallah. Hondo’s paternal grandfather was a Muslim scholar and poet. One of his grandmothers originally came from Mali, and his father was originally from the Western Sahara, a Spanish colony until 1975 when it came under Moroccan control.

After attending primary and secondary schools, including some time at a culinary program at the International Hotel School in the Moroccan capital of Rabat, Hondo moved in 1959 to Marseilles France where he worked as a dockworker Hondo read voraciously and drew inspiration from writers such as Frantz Fanon Cheikh Anta Diop Aimé Césaire and Kateb Yacine Hondo later noted how frustrated he was by the invisibility of people of color in French popular culture and film On movie screens or in theaters our ...

Article

Mark D. Cunningham

filmmakers and film producers, were born in Detroit, Michigan, the twin sons of an African American father and a white Armenian mother, Aida Hughes. Though information about their father is limited, the Hughes Brothers, as they are most well known commercially, have suggested in interviews that he was or tried to be a pimp. Their parents divorced when the brothers were two years old. In 1981 Aida moved her young sons to Pomona, California, a suburb near Hollywood. With little more than a fast food restaurant worker's income, Aida supported her family while simultaneously putting herself through college. She eventually established her own business to rehabilitate injured workers and satisfied her activist spirit by becoming president of the Pomona chapter of the National Organization for Women.

To keep her boys out of trouble Aida lent her company s video camera to her sons to occupy their time creating ...

Article

Ina J. Fandrich

documentary filmmaker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the youngest of three sons of the engineer and contractor Frederick McDonald Massiah, a native of Barbados, and Edith Lamarre-Massiah from Haiti, who taught French at North Carolina Central College and the Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Massiah grew up in North Philadelphia near Temple University. He attended Friends Select School, an independent Quaker institution in Philadelphia, from kindergarten through grade 12, and received an undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1977.

At Cornell, Massiah studied physics and astronomy, but also became interested in media arts. While residing at the University's Risley College for the Creative and Performing Arts, Massiah made the experimental film Exercise: Swim, Pebble, Martyr, Remember (1975 During this time he also started to work at WNET the public television station in New York City He later pursued a graduate degree in Documentary Filmmaking ...

Article

Debbie Clare Olson

filmmaker, producer, director, playwright, writer, and cultural critic, was born in Newark, New Jersey, but spent most of his childhood in North Carolina. Little is known about his family. After high school, Moss moved to Baltimore and attended Morgan State College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1929. He also attended Columbia University in New York City, where he formed a troupe of black actors called “Toward a Black Theater.” The troupe toured around New York City and performed at various black colleges.

Moss was active in the theater and radio and acted in his first film, The Phantom of Kenwood, in 1933. The film was directed by Oscar Micheaux, one of the more prolific early black filmmakers. Between 1932 and 1933 Moss wrote three dramas—“Careless Love,” “Folks from Dixie,” and “Noah”—for a radio series called The Negro Hour ...

Article

C. M. Winston

artist, curator, art historian, filmmaker, writer, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of Howard Pindell and Mildred, both educators. By the age of eight Pindell already aspired to be an artist, and she attended Saturday drawing classes at the Fleischer Art Memorial.

Pindell graduated cum laude with a BFA from Boston University and earned an MFA from Yale University's School of Art and Architecture in 1967. She moved to New York City in 1967 after graduating from Yale and she worked primarily as a painter of nonobjective and figurative works during the early years of her career That year she landed a job at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA as an exhibition assistant in the department of national and international circulating exhibitions At MoMA she rose through the ranks from curatorial assistant to associate curator in ...

Article

Luther Brown

journalist, news anchor, writer, documentary producer, and activist, was born in New York City to Christopher Poussaint, a printer, and Bobbie Vance Poussaint, a social worker who would eventually become New York City's human resources administration commissioner. Poussaint was born into a nurturing family in East Harlem, surrounded by her aunts and uncles. One of them, Alvin Poussaint, later became a well-known psychiatrist, writer, and civil rights activist.

Initially Poussaint attended a neighborhood Catholic school in Harlem, but in 1953 she, her parents, and her younger brother moved to Queens, New York. Three years later her parents divorced. In Queens, she attended public schools. She had a deep curiosity about the varied cultures of the world and a passion for literature, writing, and African dance—she performed briefly with a professional company. In-1962 Poussaint graduated as salutatorian of her class at ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

journalist and prisoner, was born in Lawtell, Louisiana, to Gladys a and Rideau's family moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana, when he was six years old. His parents divorced before he became a teenager. He attended the Second Ward Elementary School, followed by the W.-O. Boston Colored High School until he dropped out.

Rideau worked a series of menial jobs from age thirteen to nineteen, when he was convicted of robbery and murder. On 16 February 1961, he robbed the Gulf National Bank. During thefourteen-thousand-dollar heist, he kidnapped three of the bank's white employees and killed one of them, Julia Ferguson, a forty-nine-year-old woman. An all-white, all-male jury convicted him and sentenced him to death that same year. He would be tried again by all-white, all-male juries in 1964 and in 1970 and he would remain in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola known nationally for being ...

Article

David A. Gerstner

filmmaker, was born Marlon Troy Riggs in Fort Worth, Texas, to Jean Williams, director of Equal Employment Opportunity and Civil Rights, a federal agency, and Alvin Riggs, who had a career in military and federal service. In the late 1960s Jean and Alvin Riggs moved Marlon and his sister, Sascha, to Augusta, Georgia, where, among other racist incidents, Marlon's school would not sponsor him in the state spelling bee even though he won the local contest. Alvin Riggs's military job took the family to Germany, where Marlon spent his high school years.

Like other African Americans who had lived abroad Marlon was struck by the overt racism and segregation that he experienced upon his return to the United States In addition to the ideological divides of race Riggs s homosexuality further complicated the oversimplified determinants of identity His experiences and observations of difference however served as ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

French filmmaker and ethnographer active in Niger, was born on 31 May 1917 in Paris. His father was an adventurous naval officer who had traveled as far as Antarctica. His mother had a deep love of poetry and painting. Their son would combine his parents’ interests in his later life.

The Rouch family moved often in Jean’s early life, and he spent time in Algeria, Morocco, and Germany. In 1937, he entered the École des Ponts et Chausées to study engineering. Rouch did so at the behest of his father rather than out of a real interest in the subject matter. However, Rouch found plenty of opportunities to take other courses outside of engineering and science.

In his last year of studies Rouch met anthropologist Maurice Griaule whose work on Dogon communities in West Africa would later be one of the most well known and controversial examples of French ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

As a pioneer of ethnographic filmmaking, which documents the lives, customs, and cultures of ethnic groups, Jean Rouche developed styles and techniques that influenced a generation of African moviemakers. Rouche's mother was a painter and his father was a naval explorer. Born in Paris, Rouche trained to be an engineer. He graduated from a prestigious Parisian engineering college in 1941 and immediately left Nazi-occupied France for the freer West African colony of Niger.

Rouche was hired to oversee the construction of a road, but lack of equipment halted the project. The engineer, however, had taken an interest in aspects of Songhai culture, including spirit possession ceremonies conducted by African workers he had befriended. Fascinated by the rites and curious to learn more, Rouche returned to France, where he enrolled in a doctoral program in anthropology and studied with the famous ethnographer Marcel Griaule Taking a break from his ...

Article

Barbara A. Desmarais

educator, scholar, and documentary filmmaker, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the elder child of Randolph and Evelyn (Turnipseed) Stakeman. He had one sister, Gail. Dr. Stakeman's father was a building superintendent; his mother was a bookkeeping clerk until 1960. Then, from 1961 to her death in 1993, Evelyn Stakeman fostered dozens of children, including young women and their babies.

Stakeman attended New York City public schools through tenth grade; then completed two years at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Wesleyan University in 1971 and his masters from Stanford University in 1976. He completed his PhD in history at Stanford in 1982.

When an undergraduate Dr Stakeman took European American and African history during the same semester Each course covered the same time period allowing him to see relationships between wide ranging ...