Hampton’s Other Films

The Great Depression Interviews

The series begins at a time when, in the minds of many Americans, “government” meant City Hall, not Washington. It ends with the realization that “forces are at work that will compel us either to live up to our national ideals or abandon them, and that we are destined to play a role in the world far beyond our own borders,” Henry Hampton said. “Today,” he continued, “we are once again grappling with many of the same questions that confronted Americans in the 1930’s, and our answers will affect everything from our standard of living to the state of the environment and the basic rights of citizenship. The stories of The Great Depression speak to Americans and the headlines of today, and our witnesses have much to teach us about the consequences of out choices.” These seven shows document both multi-cultural and multi-regional perspectives that reflect the diversity of American experience during the greatest economic crisis in U.S. history.

  • A Job At Ford’s
  • The Road to Rock Bottom
  • New Deal/New York
  • We Have a Plan
  • Mean Things Happening
  • To Be Somebody
  • Arsenal of Democracy

A Job at Ford’s — Henry Ford’s five-dollar a-day bargain attracts thousands of workers to his River Rouge factory near Detroit. But, neither his high demands for more production nor the private police he hires to enforce industry rules can control the onset of the Great Depression and a bloody battle at the gates of the Rouge.

The Road to Rock Bottom — With rural America in economic ruin, “Pretty Boy” Floyd robbing banks across Oklahoma, and veterans marching to Washington to demand that President Hoover and Congress pay for World War I services, many find hope in Franklin Roosevelt after a landslide presidential victory.

New Deal/New York — Nowhere is President Roosevelt’s transformation of the American landscape more apparent than in Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia’s New York City. Despite disagreements over personal issues and over funds for a bridge that will unite three boroughs of New York City, together FDR and LaGuardia redefine the relations between the government and the people.

We Have a Plan — A novelist and former member of the Socialist Party, Upton Sinclair’s campaigned for governor of California, promising to end poverty in the state. Sinclair was defeated, but one year later President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, a signal of the American system’s emergence as a modern welfare state.

Mean Things Happening — On the tenant farms of the Arkansas Delta and in the steel factories of America’s industrial heartland workers battle factory managers and landowners for their right to join a union.

To Be Somebody — When lynchings, segregation and anti-Semitism were commonplace, NAACP’s Walter White, attorney Charles Houston, heavyweight champ Joe Louis, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt are symbols of strength who challenge America to fulfill her promise of justice and equality.

Arsenal of Democracy — Some Americans celebrate dreams of peace and prosperity at the New York and San Francisco World’s Fair, while others find work in new defense industries for a European war that ended America’s Great Depression.

Premiere: Monday October 25, 1993 PBS

Told through the memories of people who had close personal and working relationships with him, from prominent figures such as Maya Angelou, Ossie Davis, and Alex Haley; to Nation of Islam associates, including Wallace D. Muhammad, the son of Elijah Muhammad; to family members who have never before talked about Malcolm X on record. Also, included is extensive archival footage of Malcolm X, speaking in his own words, at meetings and rallies, and in media interviews.

This program chronicles Malcolm X’s remarkable journey from his birth on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, to his tragic assassination at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City on February 21, 1965. During his life time, Malcolm X was many men: in Omaha and in Lansing, Michigan, he was a straight A-student Malcolm Little, the son of Reverend Earl Little, an outspoken organizer of the famous Marcus Garvey movement, who preached about the relationship between black pride and salvation, and who was found dead on trolley tracks, nearly cut in two by a streetcar — the victim, some believe, of white vigilantes. Years later, on the streets of Boston and New York, he became “Detroit Red” and “New York Red” — a hustler, drug pusher, pimp, con man, and the head of a Boston robbery ring.

He emerges from prison as Minister Malcolm — Malcolm X, the fiery, eloquent spokesman for Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam. At a time when black civil rights leaders preached harmony and integration, Malcolm preached a militant gospel of self-defense and nationalism that terrified many white people and disturbed, yet also inspired black Americans. Finally, he became El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, the man who traveled to 14 African nations, meeting with heads of state, who became an internationally recognized leader and advocate for oppressed peoples, and who returned from Mecca with a deeper understanding of Islam, and a new willingness to accept white allies. “The white man and the black man have to be able to sit down at the same table,” he said in his last year. ” The white man has to feel free to speak his mind without hurting the feelings of the Negro. The so-called Negro has to feel free to speak his mind without hurting the feelings of the white man. Then they can bring the issues that are under the rug out on top of the table and take an intelligent approach to getting the problem solved.”

In 1965, under attack from the Nation of Islam, and under surveillance by the FBI, Malcolm X was assassinated while delivering a speech. Who killed him and why has never been explained.

Key Interviews:

  • Prince Muhammad Al-Faysal
  • Maya Angelou
  • Peter Bailey
  • John Henrik Clarke
  • Ella Collins
  • Gloria R. Dandridge
  • Ossie Davis
  • William DeFossett
  • Peter Goldman
  • Malcolm Jarvis
  • Imam Benjamin (10X) Karim
  • Yuri (Mary) Kochiyama
  • Wilfred Little
  • Robert Mangum
  • Cyril McGuire
  • W. Deen Mohammed Wallace (Wallace D. Muhammad)
  • Abdul Aziz Omar (Philbert Little)
  • Ahmed Osman
  • Gordan Parks
  • Amina Rahman (Sharon 10X)
  • Gene Roberts
  • Sonia Sanchez
  • Attallah Shabazz
  • Betty Shabazz
  • Yusuf Shah (Capt. Joseph)
  • Mike Wallace
  • Yvonne (Little) Woodard

Premiere: January, 26 1994 PBS
Narrator: Actress Alfre Woodard

A discovery more than three decades ago that millions of people across the country were living in poverty motivated both policy-makers and the American public to establish federal programs, private sector initiatives, and grassroots political efforts. Few eras in U.S. history have been more political, distorted and misunderstood than what President Lyndon Johnson declared, during his 1964 State of the Union address, as an “unconditional war on poverty.”

Through the eyes of prominent political figures and poor people, activists and onlookers, the series offers firsthand accounts from the front lines of this “war.” Sargent Shriver, director of Lyndon Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity, muses, “If you’ve never waged a war … against something like poverty, and nobody’s around to talk to -there are no graduates like military strategists to tell you what to do- you have to do it by trial and error. That’s what we did.”

Unita Blackwell, an organizer for a parent-run, federally funded Head Start program in Mississippi, recalls that many communities were inspired to adopt a broad-based approach to their local anti-poverty efforts. “If you don’t have some health and some education and some participation, a feeling that you can govern yourself, then you’ll forever stay in poverty.

Karen Bolte, a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer living with a family in rural Kentucky remembers: “I was taught as a child that if you work very hard in this country, you can get ahead. And here was a family that had worked very hard all their lives, and they had nothing, really, through no fault of their own, but (because of) the way the system was set up.” Such encounters with poverty echoed by on-screen “witnesses” throughout the series, became a call to action answered by thousands of grassroots leaders fighting to make a difference in their own neighborhoods.

From the struggles of Head Start in Mississippi to the conflicts of VISTA in Appalachia; from community organizing in the streets of Newark and in the fields of California to the formation of a national welfare rights movement, the five one-hour programs chronicle events across the country that capture the vitality and conflicting visions of America’s War on Poverty.

  • In This Affluent Society
  • Given A Chance
  • City of Promise
  • In Service to America
  • My Brother’s Keeper

In This Affluent Society – President Lyndon Johnson chooses poverty as the focus of his administration’s domestic agenda. During his 1964 State of the Union address he declares, “unconditional war on poverty,” launching a series of initiatives designed to end poverty forever, not through welfare or job creation, but by expanding opportunities for the poor through education and training. The announcement comes during a period of unprecedented national prosperity. The economic and industrial boom following World War II has made America the wealthiest nation in the world, but not all Americans share in the good fortune.

Given A Chance – While providing opportunities for the poor, many War on Poverty programs are attacked by those who fear that the social, political and economic status quo is being upset. Head Start, created early in 1965 to provide poor children with adequate nutrition, health care and education, battles strong opposition at the height of its success in Mississippi, America’s poorest state.

City of Promise – Community action, one of the cornerstones of Johnson’s program, calls for “maximum feasible participation” by the poor in designing and administering federally funded anti-poverty programs. In Newark, New Jersey, the lessons of community action are played out against the backdrop of an urban center desperately lacking adequate housing and jobs.

In Service to America – From the coal mines of Appalachia to the farmlands of California, the poor and the middle class forge partnerships in the War on Poverty that open new doors for both groups. Students and other young people, roused by the social movements of the early 1960’s are drawn by the thousands to programs such as Legal Services and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which broaden the old American idea of voluntarism to a national scale.

My Brother’s Keeper – The American welfare system created in 1935 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal was never intended to serve the staggering number of poor people who have joined the welfare rolls by 1968. Twenty-five million Americans live Americans live below the poverty line. While the War on Poverty has stressed education and training to lift families out of poverty, it has not addressed the growing welfare crisis, and American dissatisfaction with the system is evident. The National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) is formed to deal with the crisis. This is an American story that gets to the heart of the country’s conflicting notions about the deserving and undeserving poor.

Premiere: January 16, 17 and 18, 1995 PBS

A celebration of some extraordinary achievements by African-American writers, dancers, painters, actors, musicians, and other influential artists of the 20th Century. The six, one-hour programs that comprise this series are listed as follows:

  • Lift Every Voice
  • Without Fear or Shame
  • Bright Like the Sun
  • The Dream Keepers
  • Not a Rhyme Time
  • The Freedom You Will Take

Lift Every Voice — a look at the first generation of African-American artists born to freedom. Bert Williams and George Walker forge careers as vaudeville stars. Performing within a racist minstrel tradition, they nonetheless make a living as black artists, infusing minstrels with genuine elements of black culture. In New Orleans, talented musicians create the innovative and exuberant sounds of ragtime and jazz, music that comes to be identified as quintessentially American. And a powerful new medium – film – allows Oscar Micheaux to make motion pictures that present the complexities of African-American life at a time when many white filmmakers were promoting dangerous racial stereotypes.

Featured artists include:

  • George Walker, actor
  • Bert Williams, actor
  • Oscar Micheaux, filmmaker
  • Noble P. Johnson, filmmaker
  • George Johnson, filmmaker
  • James Reese Europe, New Orleans band leader
  • Buddy Bolden, trumpeter/band leader
  • Edward “Kid” Ory, jazz trombonist/band leader

Without Fear or Shame – focuses on the years of the Harlem Renaissance. Female blues singers bring their southern sounds north and a flourishing African-American arts scene in New York City creates widespread interest in black culture. When community leaders like W.E.B. DuBois see the possibility of employing art in the struggle for racial justice, conflicts emerge over just what that art should express. Some African-Americans argue that art must present blacks in the best possible light. Young writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston want their work to reflect real-life experiences, complexities, and culture of black communities. Many white patrons, on the other hand, wrongly see African-American art as simply an expression of exotic primitivism.

Featured artists include:

  • W.E.B. Dubois, scholar
  • Langston Hughes, poet/essayist
  • Zora Neale Hurston, anthropologist/novelist
  • Alain Locke, scholar
  • “Ma” Rainey, blues singer
  • Bessie Smith, blues singer
  • Mamie Smith, blues singer

Bright Like the Sun — an exploration of the challenges that African-American artists face during the Great Depression and World War II. Legendary singer and stage and screen performer Paul Robeson commits to using his art and status to fight for social justice. Augusta Savage, an internationally acclaimed sculptor, turns to building community institutions where the talent of young black artists, such as Jacob Lawrence, is nurtured. Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and other young musicians create Bebop, a controversial and innovative style of music that transforms jazz from popular entertainment into a recognized art.

Featured artists include:

  • Gwendolyn Knight, painter
  • Jacob Lawrence, painter
  • Paul Robeson, actor/singer/activist
  • Augusta Savage, sculptor/art teacher
  • Dizzy Gillespie, jazz trumpeter/composer/band leader
  • Charlie Parker, jazz saxophonist/composer

The Dream Keepers — presents a series of American-American “firsts” in all fields that mark the nation at mid-century. Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, overwhelming popular with black and white audiences, is the first play written by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway. Some fields, however, remain closed to African-Americans, as we see in the lives of ballerinas Delores Browne and Raven Wilkinson. An artist who epitomized the era, James Baldwin, chooses exile in Paris as he struggles to launch his literary career; however, events in the States compel Baldwin’s return as he lends his words and voice to the Civil Rights movement.

Featured artists include:

  • James Baldwin, novelist/essayist/playwright
  • Richard Wright, novelist
  • Lorraine Hansberry, playwright
  • Delores Browne, dancer/dance instructor
  • Virginia Johnson, dancer
  • Arthur Mitchell, dancer/choreographer
  • Raven Wilkinson, dancer

Not a Rhyme Time — brings cultural revolution as black artists challenge mainstream aesthetics, identity, and power that ultimately defy the very notion of a mainstream. Transformed by the Black Arts Movement, poet Gwendolyn Brooks begins to write about black pride and self-determination. The era of black pride deeply affects Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold, Benny Andrews and other African-American visual artists who challenge mainstream institutions’ representations of black art and offer an alternative vision. Alice Walker writes about a black woman’s quest for independence in The Color Purple and wins both the Pulitzer Prize and the outrage of some African-Americans who condemn her book for criticizing black men rather than a racist society.

Featured artists include:

  • Gwendolyn Brooks, poet
  • Sonia Sanchez, poet
  • Amiri Baraka, poet/playwright
  • Ntozake Shange, poet/playwright
  • Alice Walker, novelist
  • Romare Bearden, painter
  • Benny Andrews, painter
  • Howardena Pindell, painter
  • Faith Ringgold, visual artist

The Freedom You Will Take — shows how African-American films, dance, music and spoken-word scenes guide the transformation of contemporary culture in American. In response to the narrow depiction of African-Americans in “blaxploitation” films, black independent films begin to offer a counterpoint. Spike Lee makes She’s Gotta Have It, which redefines black cinema, and ignites a new wave of independent films by and about African-Americans. Following the death of his partner Arnie Zane, dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones stages The Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin, his first work overtly exploring the black experience in America. Visual artist Kara Walker and poet Saul Williams represent a younger generation who dare to challenge convention.

Featured artists include:

  • Spike Lee, filmmaker
  • Kara Walker, visual artist
  • Saul Williams, poet
  • Bill T. Jones, dancer/choreographer

Premiere: February 1999 PBS

A Major 6-part PBS Television Series Traces the Religious Journey of Blacks in America

For more information see PBS’ This Far By Faith web site.

This Far by Faith explores the connection between faith communities and the development of African-American cultural values and practices, and celebrates the role of religion in addressing the social, political, economic and educational ideals central to American society, the development of citizens, the creation of leaders, the formation of communities, and the political empowerment of people.

The 6 hours of This Far by Faith examine the African American religion experience in America through the major milestones of a three hundred year period of the country’s history. From the arrival of the early African slaves through the Civil War, reconstruction, Jim Crow, the great depression, the civil rights era and the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st, we see the epic journey of a people in search of survival, dignity and freedom. This Far by Faith is a joint production of Blackside, Inc. and the Faith Project. It is the last project conceptualized by legendary filmmaker Henry Hampton whose contributions include award-winning and history making projects such as Eyes on the Prize, America’s War on Poverty, and l’ll Make Me a World.

Before his death in 1998, Hampton wrote that it was his dream to celebrate the sweep and range of African-American religious experience “in the context of the nation’s struggle to realize the goals of democracy and humanity: who we are as a nation, what we believe as a people, and what we consider worth dying-and living-for.”

The series is co-executive produced by June Cross and Dante James.

  • There Is a River
  • God Is a Negro
  • Guide My Feet
  • Freedom Faith
  • Inheritors of the Faith
  • Rise Up and Call Their Names

Hour One: There Is a River
Directed and produced by W. Noland Walker.

The first hour of the series explores the evolution of African-American religious thought, from the beliefs and rituals Africans brought to America to the influence of Christian teachings imposed on slaves in the new world. It charts the growth of independent black churches and attempts by slaves and free blacks to unify the black community. Through the lives of two nineteenth-century black leaders, Sojourner Truth and Denmark Vesey, we see how religion and belief in God provided hope in the face of desperation.

Hour Two: God Is a Negro
Directed and produced by June Cross.

This hour focuses on the role of Henry McNeal Turner, whose efforts to create a sense of self-respect among African Americans began in the political arena and shifted to the religious realm. An organizer of the Georgia Republican Party during Reconstruction, Turner’s emphasis on black nationalism and his rejection of white supremacy alienated him from mainstream leaders, but led to a greater role for the black church in African-American culture. Turner’s philosophy and teachings encouraged his followers to find God from within, raising their opinions about themselves and all black people.

Hour Three: Guide My Feet
Directed and produced by Lulie Hadad.

This hour follows the movement of African Americans from the South to the promised land of the North, from country to city, from rejection to hope. It is also the story of Cecil Williams and Thomas A. Dorsey, two men a generation apart, both Southern migrants, united by a vision to take the stark reality of the streets into the church, challenging Christianity to be true to its promise of acceptance. In the black community of Chicago, Thomas Dorsey, a pianist with blues singer Ma Rainey, pioneers a different direction for spiritual expression: gospel music. In San Francisco, the Reverend Cecil Williams strives to pull down barriers with his “come as you are” church. Through their great efforts, Dorsey, Williams, and others create a new faith and a new music.

Hour Four: Freedom Faith
Directed and produced by Alice Markowitz.

This hour traces the connections between “freedom faith”-the belief that God intended all people to be equal and free-and the Civil Rights Movement. Faith gave black families a way of insulating themselves from the oppression of segregation in the 1940s and 1950s, and provided the seeds for opposition to Jim Crow. Many of the protests of the 1960s are shown from the perspective of Prathia Hall, an eminent black preacher who was born in 1940 and literally grew up with the movement. Hall is one of many voices in the film-voices of ordinary people who, through faith, risk their lives to challenge America to live up to its promise of equality.

Hour Five: Inheritors of the Faith
Directed and produced by Valerie Linson.

This episode follows the journeys of African Americans who seek a spiritual experience in the religious traditions of Islam and Yoruba, and explores how the role of Christianity is questioned as a strategy to effect social change. Yoruba is a spiritual tradition that originated in West Africa and pre-dates Christianity. With a focus on honoring ancestors, Yoruba worshipers find a means of gaining strength and spirituality from within. Another spiritual direction that gained prominence in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement was the Nation of Islam, led by Elijah Muhammad. The film follows Muhammad’s son, Warith Deen. When he took over the movement after his father’s death, he transformed the organization to more closely follow the practice of orthodox Islam. Today he leads the Muslim American Society, the largest group of practicing African-American Muslims in the United States (Louis X. Farrakhan resurrected the ideology of the old Nation of Islam in 1978).

Hour Six: Rise Up and Call Their Names
Directed and produced by Leslie Farrell.

The last hour in the series follows 60 people in the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage on a physical and spiritual voyage as they walk from Massachusetts to Florida, then make their way to the Caribbean and ultimately to Africa. Their purpose is to pray for the spirits of their ancestors, and to discover for themselves the spiritual value of taking such a journey. Along the way, they visit the Masjid Khalifah Mosque and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. After months of difficult travel and deep soul-searching, the pilgrims reach Africa with a stronger sense of identity and purpose.

This Far by Faith: African-American Spiritual Journeys is a co-production of Blackside Inc. (Eyes on the Prize, America’s War on Poverty, and Malcolm X: Make it Plain) and The Faith Project, in association with the Independent Television Service. It is presented on PBS by WGBH and ITVS.

It was directed and produced by W. Noland Walker (There Is a River), June Cross (God Is a Negro), Lulie Hadad (Guide My Feet), Alice Markowitz (Freedom Faith), Valerie Linson (Inheritors of the Faith), and Leslie Farrell (Rise Up and Call Their Names). God Is a Negro was directed by Regge Life. The series executive producer for Blackside Inc. is Dante J. James. The executive producer for The Faith Project is June Cross. Lorraine Toussaint (Any Day Now, Crossing Jordan) is the series narrator. Judi Hampton is the president of Blackside Inc.

Funding was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Lilly Endowment, Inc., The Ford Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, the Independent Television Service, The Annie Casey Foundation, and The National Black Programming Consortium.

This Far by Faith is closed captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers, and described for people who are blind or visually impaired by the Media Access Group at WGBH. The descriptive narration is available on the SAP channel of stereo TVs and VCRs. For more information about This Far by Faith, visit the series website at: PBS

Premiere: June 24-26, 2003 on PBS.