Lasting Legacies: Henry Hampton

In anticipation of the official opening of the newly transformed Olin Library on May 1, 2018, we would like to preview some of the new spaces and exhibitions. Lasting Legacies, the inaugural exhibition of the Thomas Gallery on Level 1 of John M. Olin Library, pays tribute to seven influential Washington University alumni whose work has enriched their respective professions and communities.

Lasting Legacies, celebrates Washington University alumni’s unique passions, diverse accomplishments, and intellectual curiosity, and will be on view through fall 2018.

Henry Hampton editing film on a Steenbeck  flatbed editor. ©Boston Globe.

Henry Hampton Collection

Henry E. Hampton Jr. (1940-1998) was a documentary filmmaker and the founder of Boston-based Blackside Inc., the largest independently owned African American production company of its time. For over three decades, Blackside created complex and award-winning series that aired on PBS, including the seminal civil rights history Eyes on the Prize.

Henry Hampton was born on January 8, 1940 in St. Louis and attended St. Louis University High School before studying literature at Washington University in St. Louis. After graduating and attending medical school for one term, he changed course, moved to Boston and began working for the Unitarian Universalists Association in Boston. During this time Hampton traveled to Selma, participated in the historic march on Turnaround Tuesday, and witnessed the tumultuous and violent response to peaceful citizens attempting to increase voter registration. This moment was the genesis of Eyes on the Prize, which would win more more than twenty major awards and attracted over 20 million viewers. The Boston Globe praised the series as “one of the most distinguished documentary series in the history of broadcasting.” Those sentiments were echoed again when Eyes on the Prize was re-broadcast in the fall of 2006, attracting a new generation of viewers. The series has been in shown and taught in classrooms for over twenty years and remains the definitive series on the civil rights movement.

After Hampton died in 1998, his archive came to Washington University Libraries in 2001. The Henry Hampton Collection is unique in that it contains all the material and elements that produced the film, including preliminary research, correspondence, stock footage, complete original interviews and outtakes, b-roll, as well as the complete and finished program. The archive as a whole is a portrait of the creative process that Hampton and his team of producers and writers engaged in to produce this groundbreaking series.

Henry Hampton Consulting with his Staff. Washington University Libraries, Henry Hampton Collection.

“We did not choose particularly popular subjects. But we have to do it because without understanding the nature of history we are weakened in our approach in dealing with any current reality.” — Henry Hampton Jr.

 

Over its 30-year history, Blackside won, or was nominated for, every major award in the documentary industry, including a Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism.

Hampton’s other documentaries include The Great Depression (1993), Malcolm X: Make It Plain (1994), America’s War on Poverty (1995), Breakthrough: The Changing Face of Science in America (1997), I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts (1998); Hopes on the Horizon (1999) and This Far by Faith (2003).

View the Collection

The Henry Hampton Collection is housed in the Film & Media Archive at West Campus, but researchers can access material by contacting Special Collections in Olin Library.

Come by Olin Library to see a portion of the Hampton Collection on display in the new Thomas Gallery, including clips of interviews from Eyes on the Prize on the new video component in the exhibition space . The Thomas Gallery fosters discovery and inspiration through the display of Washington University Libraries’ vast and distinct collections. The exhibition space is stewarded by the Department of Special Collections and is a lively pathway that spans the distance between the north and south entrances of John M. Olin Library.

To learn more about the Hampton Collection, you can look through our online catalog, or view all of the preserved and digitized interviews that Hampton and his team created for Eyes on the Prize.

The Thomas Gallery fosters discovery and inspiration through the display of Washington University Libraries’ vast and distinct collections. The exhibition space is stewarded by the Department of Special Collections and is a lively pathway that spans the distance between the north and south entrances of John M. Olin Library.

 

 

About the author

Reference and Outreach Supervisor in Special Collections.