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Topper Carew

Film director Topper Carew was born on July 16, 1943 in Boston, Massachusetts. Carew attended Howard University School of Architecture in Washington, D.C. and received his B.A. degree in architecture and his M.S. degree in environmental design from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Later, Carew obtained his Ph.D. degree in communications from the Union Graduate School and Institute for Policy Studies.

In 1966, Carew founded The New Thing Art and Architecture Center, in Washington, D.C., to teach inner city youth. In 1972, Carew transitioned into film and received the Community Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and, in 1973, went to work at WGBH in Boston where he produced Say Brother, Tonite From Harvard Square and several national PBS series including Say Brother, National Edition, and Rebop I & II. Carew received a broadcast fellowship from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and spent four years there.

Carew and his late wife, producer Alyce S. Carew, co-founded the non-profit Rainbow Television Workshop, in 1974. Included in his filmography are credits for his work, as director for Breakin’ N’ Enterin’ in 1983; storywriter and producer for the theatrical release of D.C. Cab in 1983; producer of Be Somebody or Be Somebody’s Fool in 1984; producer of And The Children Shall Lead TV movie in 1985; executive producer of Bustin’ Loose TV series in 1987; executive producer of A Little Bit Strange the TV movie in 1989; executive producer of Homeroom TV series in 1989; director and screenwriter for Talkin Dirty After Dark in 1991; executive producer of Martin from 1992 to 1997; director of The Journey of Allen Strange TV series in 1998; director of The Jersey TV Series in 2000; director of The 100 Deeds of Eddie Mc Dowd in 2001; director of We Don't Die, We Multiply: The Robin Harris Story in 2006.

In 2012, Carew was appointed as a research scholar at Life Long Kindergarten Lab at the MIT Media Lab; and, in 2016, he was promoted to principal investigator at the MIT Media Lab. He later launched the Techquity Research Group and was named faculty fellow at the Innovation Lab at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia in 2018.

His honors include the Boston Neighborhood Network’s “National Media Hero Award”; the national “Hometown Video Award” for the best Public Access Television “On Air” promotional campaign; and a 2013 MIT Martin Luther King Leadership Award. He was the keynote speaker at Boston’s 2015 King Breakfast and at Boston’s 2016 Annual King Afternoon Celebration at Faneuil Hall.

Carew served on the advisory board for The Color of STEM. Carew has won more than forty film and television awards, and eight Gold Medals for graphic design. His awards also include three Action for Children’s Television Awards, four NAACP Image Awards, a People’s Choice Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

Topper Carew was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 14, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.207

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/14/2018

Last Name

Carew

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Topper

Birth City, State, Country

Boston

HM ID

CAR41

Favorite Season

Spring; Fall

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Tobago; Florence, Italy

Favorite Quote

Let It Marinade

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

7/16/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Film director Topper Carew (1943 - ) served as producer for WGBH/Boston PBS before launching Techquity Research Group. He has been awarded over forty film and television awards for his work on many movies and shows.

Favorite Color

Light Yellow

Bill Duke

Film director and actor Bill Duke was born on February 26, 1943 in Poughkeepsie, New York and is the son of Ethel Douglas Duke and William Duke, Sr. After earning his A.A. degree from Dutchess Community College, Duke became interested in the performing arts while attending Boston University, although he initially enrolled as a pre-med student. He eventually majored in theater there and then went on to earn a M.A. degree in fine arts from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Duke later enrolled in the American Film Institute (AFI).

Duke began his career as an actor in New York City theaters like The Public Theater and New Federal Theater, performing in plays such as LeRoi Jones' Slave Ship and Melvin Van Peebles’ musical Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. Duke’s first movie role came in 1976 when he portrayed a fierce young Black Muslim revolutionary named “Abdullah Mohammed Akbar” in Car Wash. Duke’s television directorial debut came in 1982 when he directed episodes of Knot's Landing, Falcon Crest, and Flamingo Road for Lorimar Productions. Duke's most prominent and critically acclaimed television work, however, has been his direction of teleplays for the PBS series American Playhouse including “The Killing Floor,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” and “The Meeting,” a 90-minute drama that depicted an imaginary meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. During the 1980s, Duke amassed more than 100 television directing credits, including more than 70 episodes of roughly 20 television series such as Miami Vice, Dallas, Crime Story, Cagney and Lacey and Hill Street Blues. Duke directed his first feature film in 1990, a film adaptation of Chester Himes' novel A Rage in Harlem. Duke went on to direct many other films including Deep Cover, Sister Act 2, Hoodlum and Deacons for Defense.

In 2004, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Duke to the California Film Commission, which works to enhance the economic climate of the state by keeping film industry jobs in California. Duke also works with non-profit and charity organizations such as Educating Young Minds, an organization that helps inner-city students excel at school and in life. Duke is the recipient of numerous awards including the AFI’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the NAACP’s Special Award for Outstanding Achievement, SCLC’s Drum Major for Justice Film Award and a Cable Ace Award. President Bill Clinton appointed Duke to the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Duke was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 19, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.115

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/19/2008

Last Name

Duke

Middle Name

Duke

Occupation
Schools

Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School

Duchess Community College

Boston University

New York University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Bill

Birth City, State, Country

Poughkeepsie

HM ID

DUK04

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

True Power Is An Individual's Ability To Move From Failure To Failure With No Loss Of Enthusiasm.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

2/26/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

Actor and film director Bill Duke (1943 - ) began his theater career in Harlem. He went on to direct several television series, including 'Hill Street Blues' and 'Knots Landing,' and films, such as 'A Rage in Harlem' and 'Deep Cover.' Duke also starred in 'Car Wash,' 'American Gigolo' and 'Menace II Society.'

Employment

Negro Ensemble Company

Howard University

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bill Duke's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bill Duke lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bill Duke describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bill Duke recalls his maternal family's move to Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bill Duke describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bill Duke describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bill Duke describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bill Duke describes how he takes after his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Bill Duke describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bill Duke describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bill Duke talks about his family's self-sufficiency

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers his upbringing in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bill Duke describes the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers Violet Avenue Elementary School in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bill Duke remembers his early experiences with dyslexia

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bill Duke describes his early interest in writing

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bill Duke remembers Dr. James Hall

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Bill Duke recalls his introduction to theater at Boston University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bill Duke remembers Lloyd Richards

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bill Duke recalls developing his skills as a director

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers his favorite film and television programs

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bill Duke describes his early theater career in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers his introduction to Hollywood's entertainment industry

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his short film, 'The Hero'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bill Duke remembers co-starring with Richard Gere in 'American Gigolo'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his transition to directing

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bill Duke remembers directing 'The Killing Floor'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bill Duke recalls directing 'A Raisin in the Sun' for PBS

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bill Duke remembers acting in 'Commando' and 'Predator'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bill Duke recalls his directorial credits in the 1990s, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bill Duke remembers directing 'Deep Cover'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his directorial philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bill Duke reflects upon his experiences as a director

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Bill Duke talks about the art of acting

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Bill Duke talks about his favorite actors

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bill Duke recalls his directorial credits in the 1990s, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bill Duke talks about his book, 'Black Light'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bill Duke describes the film 'Deacons for Defense'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bill Duke talks about the California Film Commission

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bill Duke describes his civic involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bill Duke describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bill Duke reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bill Duke describes his plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Bill Duke reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Bill Duke talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Bill Duke describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

8$2

DATitle
Bill Duke talks about the art of acting
Bill Duke talks about his book, 'Black Light'
Transcript
--As an actor, it's a different kind of feeling. It's just--it's like writing. I'm a writer, but I don't write much anymore; it's just like too isolated for me, you know? If I get married, or I'm gonna be a writer again because I can--somebody's there, but writing is a desolate, desolate experience. People don't understand, I don't think how--writing is like--just, just you and, as they say, the tabula rosa [sic. tabula rasa]. It's that blank piece of paper, and you're writing, and you go, what the hell? What is that? You try to make it better. You don't, you don't even know if it's better; you feel it's better. That's how acting is. Acting is like--[HistoryMaker] Lloyd Richards used to say something like, it's falling into darkness backward; you just gotta trust. It's not because you're so bright or talented, but the degree of your research and preparation is important in the final analysis. See, stage fright--they call it stage fright, which you've probably seen, is this (gesture). You go on stage, and you're supposed to be John, but the actor is observing himself being John. So who's onstage? The actor and John. The writer didn't write the, the, the part for Bill and John (laughter), he just wants John (laughter), so Bill has to surrender whatever he is to John. That process of surrender is called trust, and if you cannot do that, you end up being a--kind of a mannequin-like version of John 'cause John's not there. You watching John, or pretending to be John, is there.$$Well, you know, we, we still have like certain iconic actors, I guess, that people write for them to be them playing a role, you know, in a way. I mean, I guess in the old days, like John Wayne really, you know, his parts were really written for a guy to--for John Wayne to be the, you know, the person, except for when he played Genghis Khan [in 'The Conqueror'] (laughter) (unclear) which didn't work out too well. But they, you know, they kind of write 'em for him, you know, he's just (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well yeah. And that--there's nothing wrong with that. They're called personality actors, and that's okay, and I, you know, I don't put that down. But the great actors of our time, the great actors of all time, you know, the great stage actors, the great--they play a spectrum of people from fathers to murderers, and every role they're in you believe it, you believe them. They have that facility, the ability to surrender to the craft in a way that's just phenomenal.$You published a book called 'Black Light: The African American Hero' [Paul Carter Harrison, Danny Glover and Bill Duke].$$It's a collaboration between [HistoryMaker] Danny Glover and myself.$$Okay.$$Uh-huh.$$And now what were you trying to do in that book?$$Pray--pay homage to all the people who had made it possible for me to be here, all the sacrifices they had made, all the deaths, all the, the limbs that had been cut off, all of the--coming over on this middle passage. All the not being able to go in the same bathroom, at the same water fountain, standing up for who you were and are, and--so that we could be here talking now.$$So it was like a photo essay type of book, right?$$It's, it's, it's, it's photographs, but also it's writing about the history and so on.$$Okay. Now, it's read at--that directors write history and stuff, but you, you see--you don't see yourself just as a director, I guess, in the generic sense, right?$$Well, directing--in order to direct successfully, I really think that you have to be dabbling in everything from writing to painting. I mean directorially, you're creating composition, and it's moving motion pictures. If you study the composition of still pictures, then you get an understanding of what balance is in a frame, and so you try your best to study the greatest painters of all time, which I tried to do, and to borrow from them in terms of understanding composition. 'Cause composition is not only where you place people, but composition also has to do with texture and color because someone that's way in the back can be the center of focus of the, of the frame if they have red on and everybody in the front has on white. You learn things from painting and sculpture and great writers from T.S. Eliot to, I mean to, name them, I mean you know. You, you set yourself to a standard. If you're, if you're your only standard it's kind of convoluted, but if your standard is to be as--if someone has set a mark for you and you say, I would like to be able to tell a story as well as Lorraine Hansberry or T.S. Eliot in his poetry, or whoever it is, that's, that's to me is part of it.

Reginald Hudlin

Reginald Alan Hudlin was born on December 15, 1961, in Centreville, Missouri. He was raised in East St. Louis, Illinois, by his parents Warrington W. Hudlin, Sr. and Helen (Cason) Hudlin. In 1983, Hudlin received his B.A. degree from Harvard University where his senior thesis project was the first version of the film, House Party. Hudlin was supported as an artist-in-residence by the Illinois Arts Council from 1984 to 1985.

At the age of seventeen, Hudlin co-founded the non-profit Black Filmmakers Foundation (BFF) with his brother, Warrington Hudlin, Jr., in 1978. The brothers then formed Hudlin Bros., Inc., a production company which made several popular music videos for MCA and Polygram Records for artists like Heavy D and the Boyz, Guy and Blue Magic. In 1990, Hudlin expanded his Harvard thesis project into the full length feature film House Party, starring the rap duo Kid ‘N Play. Hudlin directed the hit movie Boomerang in 1992, starring Eddie Murphy. Later that year, Hudlin co-executive produced Bebe’s Kids, an animated musical comedy based on the comic monologues of the late Robin Harris. In 1994, Hudlin created and directed the animated series Cosmic Slop which combined fantasy and social commentary. He received a Cable Ace Award for his work on Cosmic Slop in 1995.

The Hudlin Brothers then founded Hudlin Bros. Records in 1996 and signed a distribution deal with Epic Records, a division of Sony. Between 1996 and 2002, Hudlin directed or produced a number of films including The Great White Hype (1996), Ride (1998), The Ladies’ Man (2000) and Serving Sara (2002). Starting in 2004, Hudlin began writing the story line for the Marvel Comic series Black Panther, the first modern Black superhero. In 2005, Hudlin co-wrote a comic novel, Birth of a Nation, with The Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder. He also serves as executive producer for the animated version of The Boondocks on the Cartoon Network. On July 12, 2005, Hudlin was named President of Entertainment for Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks. At BET, Hudlin is chief programming executive in charge of the network’s music, entertainment, specials, sports, news and public affairs, film and program acquisitions, home entertainment and programming development units. Hudlin married Chrisette Suter on November 30, 2002. They have a daughter, Helena Grace, and reside in Los Angeles, California.

Accession Number

A2008.067

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/31/2008 |and| 12/12/2018

Last Name

Hudlin

Maker Category
Schools

Alta Sita Elementary School

St. Francis Xavier School

Assumption Catholic High School

Harvard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Reginald

Birth City, State, Country

Centerville

HM ID

HUD05

Favorite Season

None

Sponsor

Black Entertainment Television

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

12/15/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Indian Food

Short Description

Film director, broadcast executive, and television director Reginald Hudlin (1961 - ) was the president of entertainment for Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks. He wrote, produced, executive-produced and directed several films and televisions shows including House Party, Boomerang, The Great White Hype, Cosmic Slop,The Bernie Mac Show, Everybody Hates Chris and The Boondocks.

Employment

Black Entertainment Television

Self Employed

University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee

Ogilvy and Mather

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
0,0:23123,386:36338,620:51383,751:65043,999:68336,1069:78720,1186:81690,1231:83220,1259:90892,1320:95242,1430:100480,1476:101962,1498:102760,1509:104584,1542:110050,1590:110610,1599:111090,1607:111410,1612:112130,1627:112850,1637:115090,1679:126948,1815:128828,1937:130050,1948:135592,1973:136384,1983:136912,1991:141312,2091:146435,2130:147540,2172:150005,2223:150430,2229:151535,2254:151875,2259:154850,2341:155275,2353:156040,2375:167910,2534:168230,2567:170630,2626:178739,2740:179342,2751:187413,2919:187808,2925:190968,3095:207604,3317:217960,3425:224160,3490:226899,3543:228393,3592:230966,3626:234701,3708:238480,3713:241840,3786:242400,3794:244240,3827:247360,3888:250800,3937:251520,3954:255400,3959$0,0:2475,75:2925,82:4650,117:5025,123:8400,182:8700,187:9000,192:10200,218:10950,229:19880,380:28112,496:28784,505:35168,669:36092,688:43820,940:66350,1208:68270,1305:73390,1410:89638,1670:91839,1732:92549,1748:93046,1757:94182,1806:99507,1945:109865,2060:114474,2131:121635,2389:129625,2515:130135,2532:153912,2866:155148,2925:164046,3055:165099,3075:172886,3153:173366,3159:173750,3164:174422,3172:180949,3302:184598,3368:186111,3389:190383,3486:200202,3696:212236,3815:217494,3940:219132,3976:230638,4309:256766,4629:262500,4729:264944,4775:274032,4865:275688,4906:279549,4928:286568,5055:294225,5201:294745,5210:304539,5371:322510,5685
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reginald Hudlin's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his paternal aunts and uncles

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin describes his father's professions

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reginald Hudlin recalls his father's personality and discipline

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reginald Hudlin describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reginald Hudlin describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin recalls his neighbors in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin remembers his childhood adventures in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin describes the Katherine Dunham Centers for Arts and Humanities in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin describes his relationship with his brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his paternal family's dinnertime activities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin describes his early interest in storytelling and comic books

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin describes his brother's academic success

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his experiences in private schools

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reginald Hudlin remembers Mor Thiam

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin describes how he came to attend the Assumption Catholic High School in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin describes his early interest in filmmaking

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin recalls the television programs of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin describes his decision to enroll at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his introduction to independent filmmaking

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin remembers his classmates at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin describes his first day at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin reflects upon his time at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Reginald Hudlin talks about the black community at Harvard University

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Reginald Hudlin describes his film assignments at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reginald Hudlin remembers creating his short film, 'House Party'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reginald Hudlin talks about his influences as a filmmaker

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reginald Hudlin recalls his start as an independent filmmaker

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reginald Hudlin describes his break into the motion picture industry

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reginald Hudlin recalls New Line Cinema's purchase of 'House Party'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reginald Hudlin remembers the Black Filmmaker Foundation's film festivals

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reginald Hudlin talks about the rise of African American popular culture

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reginald Hudlin recalls the production of his feature film, 'House Party'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reginald Hudlin remembers the cast of 'House Party'

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

3$4

DATitle
Reginald Hudlin remembers his childhood adventures in East St. Louis, Illinois
Reginald Hudlin describes his break into the motion picture industry
Transcript
And, we'd go ride bikes or whatever, and we went to red hill. You know, a lot of the kind of, you know, when you go on kind of a, an adventure trip, kind of a Huck Finn [Huckleberry Finn] type thing with your boys. It was always somewhere profoundly unhealthy (laughter). Because East St. Louis [Illinois] is full of all these bad post-industrial wastelands, right. So, you'd go to red hill, which was some kind of mining thing. So, literally, it was this big hill, or you know, kind of thing you would climb and it was all red. Kind of a red smudge, sand combination. I don't know why it was red. Maybe it was red clay that had been churned or whatever. So, it felt like you were on Mars. And, you'd be walking, then you see these bones. And, you're like, "Where are those bones from?" And, someone would say, "From the pack of wild dogs." Which was, you know, it probably--I mean, or were there wild dogs there? Absolutely (laughter). Were there feral dogs roaming through red hill? Yes. Which of course, for the excitement of going to red hill (laughter). What--was that a leftover bone from one? I don't know. But, it was part of the excitement. Or, it was a big grain factory. Not factory, but, you know, they would store the grains and the trains would come and load up. And, one day that caught fire. And, it was amazing 'cause it was a giant fire. So, of course, everyone comes to watch the fire. And, all of a sudden you heard all the popcorn pop (makes noise). But, like, it sounded like Iraq. And, then the popcorn smell. Then the smell of burnt popcorn which is not so fun. So, what was left of that plant, we'd go rummaging around in, just like an old factory, weed covered, and you'd see a mattress and then somebody would say, "Man, you should bring a girl out there. It's a mattress." And, you'd be like, "How's that supposed to work?" Some mattress in a weedy lot. That's not romantic (laughter). And, then there was a, there was, there was this elaborate sprinkler system, right. And, there's this, and there was water and kids were literally playing in this. And, we were like, "That is chemical water." That's some kind of fertilizer or something. So, like, I don't know what kind of chromosomal damage those kids got from playing in that water, but I knew not to get in it. And, on occasions you'd look down there and a snake would just pop out. We were like, "Ho! It's chemical water and it's a snake" (laughter). We were--they were like, "Whatever, it's all good," (laughter). Or, we would walk down to Lincoln Park [East St. Louis, Illinois], which was the park. And, none of us knew how to swim. But, each of us knew a little bit of how to swim. So, we were determined to teach each other how to swim. And, we each learned as much as three kids who don't know how to swim (laughter) could learn. Eventually, I took real swimming lessons but (laughter). So, yeah, it was, we had--and there were apple trees. So, there'd be apple wars where you know, you go--a big thing full of apples and they're hard apples, they're not ripe yet. So, you throw 'em (gesture), right and they would sting. So, you'd be running through the neighborhood (gesture), you know, hitting people, attacking people, which is, you know--and, that's not nearly as bad a chat war. And, chat are those little smooth stones that you put in a driveway or whatever. And, now that could put your eye out (laughter). So, there would be that kind of action too.$$So, you're describing a typically boy, young, adventuresome boys--?$$(Nods head).$$Playing, playing in the neighborhood.$$I mean, there were some like heavier stuff like, the park I remember, you know, occasionally they'd be like a gang fight and they'd be some people pulling out guns and stuff. So, yeah, it sometimes it would go to another level. But, again, that's before drugs became big. I mean, in the '60s [1960s] it was not the same kind of thing as later when drugs drove the stakes up really high.$And, then 'She's Gotta Have It' came out and everything changes.$$So, tel- that's what I was gonna ask 'cause 'She's Gotta Have It' came out in 1985 [sic. 1986].$$Um-hm.$$Right? So, what does that, what do you mean by everything changes?$$Well, all of sudden Hollywood's like, "Hey, there's another kind of filmmaker that's resonating with the audience. We don't know how to make that. Let's figure out who these people are. Is there another one? Can we buy it?" I remember a big party at Nelson George's house and, you know, Nelson is the hub of all things. In fact, if you haven't done Nelson, you really--$$We haven't done--I don't remember--$$That's the number one person you need to profile in this thing (laughter). It's like what you need, a day (laughter). So, we're at Nelson's house, so [HistoryMaker] Russell Simmons is there. And, I know he's working on--he's planning this movie called 'Tougher Than Leather,' and I'm pleading with him to let him--let me direct 'Tougher Than Leather.' He's like no my partner is gonna direct it. And, later I find out he's just like, "Who's this Harvard [Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts] guy? He doesn't know anything about hip hop and wants to do this movie?" So, I was like--and, Spike [Spike Lee] gives me script. 'Cause Spike lives down the street.$$Now, do you--how did you meet Spike? Like, I mean, do you know him at this point? And, I'm just wondering if he was in the BFF [Black Filmmaker Foundation] circle or not?$$Yeah. What happened was, Warrington [Hudlin's brother, Warrington Hudlin] in 1979, 1980, does this big film conference in New York [New York], and everyone's there. There's filmmakers from Africa, all kinds of folks. [HistoryMaker] Julie Dash is there. Just all kinds of folks are there. And, there is this film student from NYU [New York University, New York, New York], comes in at the last minute. Warrington waives the fee, lets him in. And, he shows his first film, 'The Answer,' which is a student film. He's doing it at NYU. So, that's when I meet Spike. So, Spike's there and he goes, "Yeah, A and M Films want me to do the Otis Redding story. I don't wanna do it. I gave him your name Reggie [HistoryMaker Reginald Hudlin]. Here's the script." So, I'm like, 'Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay' [ph.]. Fine, I'm in." So, I'm so--I call them up--$$Wait, but year is this? I'm sorry.$$Oh, I'm sorry. This was (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) 'Sittin' on the Dock of Bay'? I mean--okay.$$No, no. This was, this was--$$Is this, this is not a--$$This is eighty--what year did 'She's Gotta Have It' come out?$$Eighty-five [1985].$$Yeah. Eighty-five [1985]. It's '85 [1985].$$Okay.$$So, I called them on Sunday. (Laughter) 'Cause I'm like, "Hey, I want a job." So, finally I get a call back. And, they go--I said, "Well, I love Otis Redding." They said, "Okay. But, we're not doing that movie. We're gonna do a movie, 'Janet Jackson and The Time'." I'm like, "Whoa. That beats Otis, Otis Redding any day," (laughter). So, I get my--they fly me out to Hollywood. I get my first Hollywood job writing the movie 'Janet Jackson and The Time,' which never happens. But, the money from writing that script--for, A, I learned how to write a script. I had never written hundred pages of anything--$$Wait a minute, okay. Okay, Spike Lee has success with 'She's Gotta Have It,' okay. Then they contact him, am I--$$About an Otis Redding movie.$$Otis Redding movie.$$So, I--$$But, he doesn't wanna do it?$$No. He says, "You should call Reggie, he's talented." So, I call them, they call me back. They say, "But, great we wanna meet with you but not about the Otis Redding movie. About this movie with Janet Jackson and The Time," which is a hundred times more interesting than Otis Redding. So, they fly me out, and A and M Films has the old Charlie Chaplin Studios [A and M Studios; Jim Henson Company Lot, Los Angeles, California].$$Can I just ask, are you showing anything? I mean, do they wanna see some of your work?$$Yeah. I showed 'em--$$Okay.$$--'House Party,' and you know.$$They like--okay.$$Yeah. Well, it was, you know, one of those people. It's interesting--$$(Laughter).$$--like now, if you've written a black play on the Chitlin' Circuit like Tyler Perry, you can get a job in Hollywood, okay. So, that's what it was for black film in '85 [1985]. So, they were like, like you're a kid, you're paying your tui- like, nothing to lose, right. So, they fly me out, (makes noise) give me the job. I'm like, "How can I write a hundred pages?" If, if you took everything I wrote all together it's not a hundred pages (laughter), right. So, I write this script. It's a hundred and fifty pages of mess. So, the executive works with me and we beat it into shape. And, you know, and it's still not great but, it's a, kind of a movie. But, then you know, it goes nowhere, right. But, with that movie, I have enough money to buy a computer. And, with a computer I can write, I don't have to write longhand and ask some friend of my brother's to type it on a computer. So, I buy a computer, and that's then I write the spec for 'House Party.'$$So, how much did you get paid on that job? That first job, do you remember?$$Forty thousand dollars I think, forty-five thousand, something like that. They just gave me money. I mean, from what I've been living on. You know, 'cause I said, "I can buy a computer and still catch cabs." 'Cause, I always says, "My thing is like, I'm the guy going home with my date at three in the morning on the subway." So, I'm like, "I can catch a subway [sic. cab] late at night." I was living. I was balling out. I could eat in a restaurant. (Laughter) You know, I was balling out.

Ayoka Chenzira

Ayoka Chenzira was born on November 8, 1953, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Paul and Bernice Wilson. Chenzira was reared by her mother who owned a beauty parlor in the building where they lived in north Philadelphia. Pennsylvania. Chenzira played the cello, field hockey and studied ballet for a number of years. She attended private boarding school during high school. After graduation, she attended The College of New Rochelle in Westchester, New York, where she studied film and photography. Chenzira received her M.A degree in education from Columbia University and her B.F.A. degree in film production from New York University, where her thesis piece was Syvilla: They Dance to her Drum, a short film that documented the African American concert dancer, Syvilla Fort, who was her dance teacher.

As the chair of the department of media and communication arts at the City College of New York, Chenzira managed programs in advertising, public relations, journalism, film and video. She also co-created the City College of New York’s first M.F.A in media arts production graduate program.

Chenzira is a prolific film artist whose works include features, performance art, documentaries, experimental productions and animation. In fact, she is considered the first African American female animator. In 2002, Chenzira was invited to serve as the first William and Camille Cosby Endowed Professor in the Arts at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, where she is creator and director of the Digital Moving Image Salon (DMIS) and teaches a year long research and production course. She also created and served as co-director of Oral Narratives and Digital Technology, a joint venture between Spelman College and the Durham Institute of Technology (DIT), where she designed and taught workshops primarily for Zulu students at DIT.

Chenzira lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and has one adult daughter.

Accession Number

A2006.156

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/10/2006

Last Name

Chenzira

Maker Category
Schools

Gesu School

Stephen Girard School

Philadelphia High School for Girls

Lourdesmont School

New York University

Teachers College, Columbia University

Georgia Institute of Technology

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ayoka

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

CHE04

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Amalfi Coast

Favorite Quote

That's What I'm Talking About.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

11/8/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sushi, Tuna Fish Sandwiches

Short Description

Animator, communications professor, film professor, and film director Ayoka Chenzira (1953 - ) created the first Master of Fine Arts degree program at the City College of New York, and is the William and Camille Cosby Endowed Professor in the Arts at Spelman College.

Employment

‘Syvilla: They Dance to Her Drum’

Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People

On Becoming a Woman: Mothers and Daughters Talking to Each Other

Secret Sounds Screaming: The Sexual Abuse of Children

The Lure and The Lore

Zajota and the Boogie Spirit

Red Carnelian Films

The City College of New York

Alma's Rainbow

In The Rivers of Mercy Angst

Sentry at the Gate: The Comedy of Jane Galvin Lewis

Snowfire

Flying Over Purgatory

Spelman College

Favorite Color

Burnt Orange

Timing Pairs
0,0:1290,20:2838,44:11954,225:29092,316:33416,360:34244,371:34704,378:35256,385:39212,423:40132,435:41696,456:42064,461:57790,581:59638,646:60086,655:60534,664:69222,713:69666,720:70036,727:73958,793:74994,817:77584,861:79730,897:80174,904:80914,915:92320,1053:93150,1059:94229,1074:94976,1084:95723,1095:96055,1100:97134,1114:98462,1126:113280,1246:114450,1265:115620,1283:115932,1289:117804,1315:118194,1321:119364,1337:120690,1366:121158,1378:127120,1418:127890,1430:133531,1480:137918,1513:138881,1523:153884,1609:158068,1657:168728,1830:169384,1841:170122,1856:176141,1879:177311,1894:184096,1940:188200,2011:209148,2335:209452,2340:209756,2345:210592,2357:212416,2406:213328,2424:214696,2446:227450,2575:231626,2667:232706,2683:233210,2692:233642,2705:235658,2746:246174,2872:248320,2909:258654,2950:260506,2955:261170,2964:263079,2988:264180,2995$0,0:6230,67:7275,82:7845,89:8510,97:10030,121:20687,232:26296,366:26770,373:27086,381:34661,423:35298,431:36390,445:36936,452:38790,465:40550,496:41190,506:42710,536:43510,544:44150,553:46390,591:47030,600:48310,629:49030,639:49510,646:64496,732:65350,741:72175,808:73022,822:75717,870:76179,877:77334,897:77950,906:79644,934:80183,942:81261,961:83417,1000:84033,1009:85265,1035:90380,1068:90835,1073:92928,1102:93383,1108:94657,1127:101900,1143:102692,1153:105571,1178:106615,1194:107050,1200:107659,1208:108616,1221:109225,1230:122161,1338:122623,1346:123008,1355:123624,1364:124240,1377:124933,1387:130620,1458:131725,1478:132235,1491:133000,1500:135465,1539:135975,1546:136315,1551:140516,1600:140928,1605:141546,1615:142164,1623:146593,1690:155814,1758:158340,1786
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ayoka Chenzira's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ayoka Chenzira lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls growing up in a diverse apartment in North Philadelphia

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her mother's apartment in North Philadelphia

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ayoka Chenzira describes Thanksgiving celebrations with her family

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ayoka Chenzira describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her childhood games and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ayoka Chenzira describes the demographics of Philadelphia's Gesu School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ayoka Chenzira remembers buying stockings for her First Communion

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ayoka Chenzira describes the nuns at Philadelphia's Gesu School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ayoka Chenzira remembers an accident on the playground

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her interest in Catholic rituals

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her childhood personality and her mother's parenting

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her mother's emphasis on healthy meals

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her outdoor and cultural activities as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls a lesson about racism

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her ballet lessons

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ayoka Chenzira remembers Philadelphia's Jewish community

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls transferring to Steven Girard Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her experiences at Steven Girard Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls her community's reaction to President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's death

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls how her artistic interest emerged at Philadelphia High School for Girls

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her high school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls developing her artistic identity at Lourdesmont School

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls her experiences at Lourdesmont School

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Ayoka Chenzira remembers her decision to study filmmaking

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ayoka Chenzira reflects upon Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her perception of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ayoka Chenzira shares her opinion of Malcom X as a young woman

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls attending The College of New Rochelle in New York

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ayoka Chenzira describes film education at New York University

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her artistic influences

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls her film professors, Peter Glushanok and Haig Manoogian

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls learning animation to create her film, 'Hair Piece'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her decision to attend Columbia University's Teachers College

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her documentary, 'Syvilla: They Dance to Her Drum'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls working as a video editor to fund her films

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her daughter and late husband

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ayoka Chenzira recalls learning animation and working with Byllye Avery

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her film, 'Hair Piece,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her film, 'Hair Piece,' pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ayoka Chenzira reflects upon African American women's hair trends

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ayoka Chenzira describes the negative response to her film, 'Hair Piece'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ayoka Chenzira explains why she does not consider herself the first African American woman animator

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her film, 'Secret Sounds Screaming: The Sexual Abuse of Children'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her film, 'The Lure and The Lore'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her film, 'Zajota and the Boogie Spirit'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her film company, Red Carnelian Films

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her international film projects and her teaching career

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her film, 'Alma's Rainbow'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her film, 'In The Rivers of Mercy Angst'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about two of her short films

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her interactive film project, 'Her,' with her daughter

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her stage play, 'Flying Over Purgatory,' pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her stage play, 'Flying Over Purgatory,' pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ayoka Chenzira describes the courses she teaches at Spelman College

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her professional and personal goals

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ayoka Chenzira reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ayoka Chenzira describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ayoka Chenzira shares her advice to aspiring filmmakers

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ayoka Chenzira shares a message for future generations

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ayoka Chenzira talks about her admiration for African American filmmakers

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Ayoka Chenzira reflects upon her legacy and how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

9$8

DATitle
Ayoka Chenzira recalls developing her artistic identity at Lourdesmont School
Ayoka Chenzira talks about her interactive film project, 'Her,' with her daughter
Transcript
The teachers at the school, once again, was there any teachers who, that you looked up to, or wanted to emulate?$$Well, let's see, I went to Girls High [Philadelphia High School for Girls, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] for two years, and then I didn't want to go there anymore. I was in some ways bored, struggling to grow up and find my grounding in that I was growing up with a single parent who was very opinionated, very structured, could be dogmatic in some ways, and there was a lot of tension in the house. And I just said I don't want to do this, so I went away to boarding school [Lourdesmont School, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania] for the last two years in upstate Pennsylvania. And it was in many ways a saving grace, because I had a kind of freedom and space that I had not imagined before. And I began to study things that I would not ordinarily be exposed to. So, for example, I was taking courses in anthropology, which were--at one point, I thought that I wanted to be an anthropologist. I wanted to be an anthropologist. I was taking early psychology and sociology courses in high school, I was starting to explore speaking French and Italian, and it was like the world was opening up to me in a very different way. And I was getting a lot more comfortable in my skin, because I was also around other young women who felt as though they were the fish out of water, as well. So it was a--it was an interesting community. Yeah.$$So in this, in this particular school, you start to explore the different things that you are coming to yourself. Okay. Becoming--and you had already decided that the arts was gonna be a part of your life, what role did the arts--I understand what you're saying about the classes that you took, sociology, but where were--$$Where did the arts fit in? I discovered that I really like to do things with my hands. And that doing things with my hands seemed to trigger information for me in terms of being able to put pieces of puzzles together, in, in terms of life, in terms of other people's lives, in terms of just figuring out some things. So I learned--there was a young woman who taught me how to knit and crochet, and it was, it was like doing hours and hours of meditation, it was wonderful. I got to the point where I could do it and not even think about it, and, you know, make very interesting things. But I think, more importantly, than the things that I was making, my mind got a chance to work things out. Both this movement with my hands and physicalizing something, there was a sense of comfort and peace that came to me in a way that I had not known before. And so if I was angry or upset about something, if I began to work with my hands, with knitting and crocheting, the feeling would go away, it would dissipate. The same thing if I was working on painting, or working on sculpture, or I played guitar for a while. These things, I began to become more aware of the impact that creating something had on my own psyche.$And 'Her'?$$'Her.'$$Tell me about it.$$'Her' is in post-production right now, I'm really excited about 'Her.' 'Her' was produced by my daughter Haj [Haj Chenzira-Pinnock], and her business partner Niaja [ph.]. They have started a company and they said, "Would you write and produce--write and direct something for us." I said, "Sure." We talked about all of the things that it could be and what it ended up being was a science fiction meets social commentary. Basically, you have this black woman who lives in another universe and she's a computer generated image, and her world is all computer generated. We worked with a wonderful artist here, William Hudson. And this character, her body is made up of images of women all over her body. That's--and she's out riding her star and she begins to see cracks in the universe, and she hears this cacophony of sound coming from Earth, and she realizes that these awful sounds are causing these fissures and cracks in her world. And she gets the approval from the old women in her community, and she jumps through this black hole and morphs into a human being and lands on Earth. And she basically discovers what, what the problem is, why she's hearing these voices yell and scream, and it has to do with these three iconic figures who represent a particular kind of male patriarchy that is from the personal level to the political level eroding away women's rights, and she deals with them to heal the universe.$$Wow.$$So that will be finished this month, and they did a, they did a really good producing job.$$That's great. And your daughter also played in some of your films, right?$$Yeah, she was in 'Alma's Rainbow,' and she was also in, 'In The Rivers of Mercy Angst.' So she's grown up to be a filmmaker.$$Like her mother.

Charles Randolph-Wright

Charles Randolph-Wright was born an only child in York, South Carolina, on August 26, 1956, to Ruth and Charles Randolph-Wright, Sr. He attended Jefferson elementary and junior high schools. Randolph-Wright graduated with honors from York High School in 1974, where he was the first African American A.B. Duke Scholarship recipient.

Randolph-Wright entered Duke University as a pre-med major. During his junior year at Duke University, Randolph-Wright decided to change his major to religion and theater. In 1976, he was afforded the opportunity to go to London. Subsequently, he studied acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company and danced with Alvin Ailey in New York. Randolph-Wright graduated with honors from Duke University in 1978 with his B.A. degree in theater and religion.

In 1979, Randolph-Wright relocated to New York City where he was cast in Pippin and in the original cast of Dreamgirls. Randolph-Wright has built a dynamic and diversified career in performing, producing, directing and writing for theater, television, and film. He was the producer and writer for the Showtime cable television series Linc’s. Randolph-Wright’s musical staging has been seen on a variety of programs, including The Golden Girls. Randolph-Wright’s direction of Senor Discretion Himself won the Helen Hayes Award for the Best Musical. He made his film directorial debut in 2006 with Preaching to the Choir, which won feature prizes at the ninth annual American Black Film Festival.

Randolph-Wright serves on the board of directors of the Roundabout Theater and the artistic board at Duke University. He is also a founding member of the Wright Family Foundation of South Carolina. After learning that an ancestor was a free man during slavery, this foundation converted the family’s former funeral home into a family history museum.

Accession Number

A2006.129

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/5/2006

Last Name

Randolph-Wright

Organizations
Schools

York High School

Jefferson Elementary School

Duke University

York Junior High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

York

HM ID

RAN05

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Amy Tate Billingsley

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Brazil

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/26/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Choreographer and film director Charles Randolph-Wright (1956 - ) was cast in the original theatrical production of 'Dreamgirls,' and produced and wrote for the Showtime cable television series, 'Linc's.' He was also the award-winning director of the musical, 'Senor Discretion Himself,' and the film, 'Preaching to the Choir.'

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:1170,17:1800,25:2250,31:2610,47:8160,214:10861,255:11226,261:16409,382:17796,406:18161,412:18526,418:20643,461:21300,472:21665,478:31208,579:32156,594:35316,663:36975,695:38318,715:39582,744:50924,937:53689,974:58914,1050:61653,1100:62898,1118:63479,1127:64060,1137:64641,1145:65139,1155:67712,1205:68293,1214:71447,1255:72028,1264:79415,1416:79913,1423:87560,1533:89360,1574:93710,1682:101726,1752:102727,1768:106269,1856:109272,1927:122430,2146:130890,2236:131394,2247:137526,2356:138114,2365:140550,2414:146952,2485:147821,2497:148137,2503:149243,2544:152087,2589:155670,2664:156054,2674:156630,2684:160086,2741:161302,2766:161622,2772:162006,2779:166240,2850:169768,2922:171280,2952:173872,3000:174232,3006:178624,3105:183358,3126:183886,3136:184150,3141:184546,3149:187978,3257:189166,3287:190156,3306:191212,3331:192400,3356:192862,3364:193126,3369:199120,3462$0,0:6020,229:7630,256:8330,267:12670,365:14980,409:17500,468:20510,540:20790,545:21210,593:27591,613:32277,722:33271,740:33555,745:33910,751:36608,811:39377,866:39874,874:41791,912:43424,944:48162,963:48532,969:48902,975:49420,984:49864,997:51048,1033:51640,1042:52084,1049:52898,1066:56154,1191:57634,1221:66842,1334:68270,1353:70118,1379:70706,1389:71546,1401:72218,1414:73058,1427:73646,1437:81689,1541:83295,1572:83952,1584:86945,1653:87967,1673:88332,1679:88697,1685:88989,1690:89719,1701:90376,1712:91252,1734:98527,1830:101266,1918:102013,1928:112056,2153:112554,2161:116514,2172:118208,2204:118747,2212:124368,2320:124830,2330:125138,2335:125754,2345:126447,2355:133377,2536:140100,2583:140870,2599:141360,2610:141920,2622:143530,2638
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles Randolph-Wright's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Slating of Charles Randolph-Wright's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his mother's move to York, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his Native American ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's high standards

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon his upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes the Wright Funeral Home in York, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his paternal grandfather, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his family's values

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his paternal grandfather, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about how his parents met and married

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his childhood holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes York, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about Hylan Lewis' study, 'Blackways of Kent'

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his paternal grandmother

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls Jefferson Elementary School in York, South Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls Jefferson Elementary School in York, South Carolina, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his childhood personality

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his religious upbringing

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls attending Jefferson Junior High School in York, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls the desegregation of York High School, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls the desegregation of York High School, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his experiences at the integrated York High School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his family's civil rights involvement, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his family's civil rights involvement, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's teaching style

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his teachers at York High School in York, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his election as vice president of the state student government

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls winning the Sons of the American Revolution award

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers his aspirations in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers retaking the SAT examination

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his decision to attend Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his experiences at Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls befriending Duke University's campus staff

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls the support of his literature professor

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his foray into the arts at Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his first experience in London, England

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes the impact of his time in London, England

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon his experiences at Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls being cast in his first professional role in 'Pippin'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's support for his career

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls working with disco singer Anita Ward

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers choreographing disco acts

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his transition from acting to directing

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about stereotypes of African Americans

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about the importance of storytelling

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers directing 'Guys and Dolls'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes Frank Loesser's musical 'Senor Discretion Himself'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his collaborations with Budd Schulberg

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his play, 'Cuttin' Up'

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes how his family inspired his play, 'Blue'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about Phylicia Rashad's performance in 'Blue'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about working with Nona Hendryx

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon the impact of the Harlem Renaissance

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls directing a production of 'Hair'

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright shares a message for African American youth

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls celebrating New Year's Eve in Brazil

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about giving back to his community

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

1$8

DATitle
Charles Randolph-Wright describes the Wright Funeral Home in York, South Carolina
Charles Randolph-Wright recalls being cast in his first professional role in 'Pippin'
Transcript
Okay, so we were talking about your [paternal] ancestors and the Wright family.$$Right.$$And--$$It was (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Isaac [Isaac Wright] and Harriet [Harriet Wright (ph.)], I wanna--$$Isaac and Harriet, yes, and I mean, you hear about these things growing u-, you hear about your relatives growing up but you really (laughter) pay no attention to it, and it was astonishing. You know, fifty years later to--for all of us to be stand--these cousins to stand around down in the woods and look at this, this tombstone of, of our ancestors. These extraordinary people who had businesses, who had their own--you know, they had they had their own companies I mean they were very enterprising in the Carolinas, you know, hundred years ago. My--Fannie Wright [Fannie Wylie Wright], who was I'm trying to think of all the connections now, but so the, the family funeral home [Wright Funeral Home, York, South Carolina] was started with Fannie and her husband, Isaac [Isaac "Bub" Wright]. And Isaac died of influenza at the turn of the century she had twelve children. They had twelve children, and she ended up running a funeral home, two farms and raising twelve children by herself, and this was early 1900s. And so our funeral home is about to turn, you know, a hundred. And so it's--then it went to Fannie--there was Fannie. Then it went to Isaac [Isaac N. Wright, Sr.] then it went to now my cousin Isaac [Isaac N. Wright, Jr.], you know. So everyone--we laughed everyone in my family is called Isaac, Paul, Charles or Robert, you know. And you go back if you look at the records Isaac, Paul, Charles, Robert, it's just aren't there any other names in our family? And what's interesting too is to see the--I went back to the records in York County [South Carolina] where we're from and on the roles, you know, they had the slave roles. And you saw the slave markings and all the names, Isaac, Paul, Charles, Robert, et cetera, but they were Withers-, they were Witherspoons because they were listed as Witherspoon. And right after emancipation, you see these names same names, but they're Wrights. And, and I, I saw that on, on paper and I just remember standing there to--and I just started weeping. You know, just that I could almost touch them--that I could--I was so proud of what they had done that they said, no, we're taking a stand even with our name. You know, our name is important that's what we're doing. So I spent, you know, these, these generations that, that had this, this business this family business 'cause if you have a family funeral business. Obviously, you're--it's so different from--I always tell people it's very different from 'Six Feet Under,' the television show that everyone watch. I say that's the black family that has the funeral home is the elite family, they're the upper-class family. The, the woman in that family is the arbiter of style a lot of times. It's this--it's that, that thing of, you know, these kids go to go to great schools, and they get to have this in life allegedly. You know, but it's, it's an energy that you never ever see. You don't see that kind of history you don't see that. So when I wrote 'Blue' [Charles Randolph-Wright] which is about a funeral home family. It was intentionally showing this elite family, which, you know, critics had trouble with because they said that, you know, family like this doesn't exist. You know, people like that don't exist.$So I went to New York [New York], and I said okay, I p- (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Wait, you went to New York after graduation?$$So after graduation, so I came back to Duke [Duke University, Durham, North Carolina], we had started these things I did everything imaginable in theater (laughter). You know, finished up my credits and as I said pre-med was the major, so I had all my courses physics both organic chemistry--all the things I needed to be a pre-med major. And again I went through the exact same thing I went through in high school [York High School, York, South Carolina] because here I was, from Duke, black kid from the South. And I was a religion and theater major who was pre-med applying to med schools, and they went crazy because they thought, oh he'll be humane. You know, what a great doctor this will be this whole thing so again my friends were killing themselves trying to get schools to see them. And I was getting, you know, offer after offer to come to this school to come to that school and I couldn't decide what to do. You know, I went to I, you know, I visited I went to Harvard [Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts] thinking do I go do this what do I do? And I got back to New York and the same day I got my--I had auditioned for the show 'Pippin' and got in it. And it was my first professional role and which was a tour which was outside the city. And I thought okay that's my sign. And I'm going to do this until--'cause I can always go back to school but I can't, you know, I'm twenty, I'm twenty-one I can't always have this career. I'm not going to be this young, I can't do this. So I ended up, you know, going after this performing career and started it and got my first job and it was, you know, and I've worked ever since.$$Okay. (Laughter) So you graduated from (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) So there, I'm done (laughter).$$No (laughter) you graduated from Duke in '78 [1978]?$$Seventy-eight [1978]--$$Okay.$$--but I actually left Duke--I finished--I through all my credits together and I finished in December 1977, but I was class of '78 [1978]. So, that's when I went to New York in January to start auditioning and to see if someone says I can do it. If I get a job or even close to a job, then I'll do this. If not, I was gonna go to med school or grad school or something else in the fall 'cause I had done my med boards. I had done, you know, the--I had done all my boards just in case and, and had these offers. So I was trying to decide do I go to school or do I go after this career. And then when I got, you know, this first job I went, that's it.

Melvin Van Peebles

Filmmaker, author, and actor Melvin Van Peebles was born on August 21, 1932, in Chicago, Illinois. Growing up during World War II, he spent his adolescence with his father, a tailor. Van Peebles graduated from Township High School in Phoenix, Illinois, in 1949 and spent a year at West Virginia State College before transferring to Ohio Wesleyan University where he earned his B.A. degree in English literature in 1953.

During the late 1950s, Van Peebles served three and a half years as a flight navigator in the United States Air Force. After the military, he lived briefly in Mexico and San Francisco where he wrote his first book, The Big Heart, which was about the life of San Francisco’s cable cars and their drivers. Moving to the Netherlands, he studied at the Dutch National Theatre before moving to France in the early 1960s. During this time, Van Peebles wrote several published novels in French, including La Permission in 1967. He filmed this story under the title, The Story of the Three-Day Pass, and it was selected as the French entry in the 1968 San Francisco Film Festival. It earned critical acclaim, which helped him obtain a studio contract with Columbia Pictures. In 1969, Van Peebles returned to the U.S. to direct and score his first Hollywood film Watermelon Man. The film was released in 1970, followed by his independent feature Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, probably his best known work. Some of his other films include Don’t Play Us Cheap in 1973, Identity Crisis in 1989, Gang in Blue in 1996 and Le Conte du ventre plein in 2000.

As a playwright and composer, Van Peebles wrote two Broadway hit plays: Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death in 1971 and Don’t Play Us Cheap in 1972, for which he earned a Tony Award nomination. As an actor, Van Peebles has appeared in several films including Robert Altman’s O.C. and Stiggs in 1987 and Mario Van Peebles’ Panther in 1995, which he also wrote and co-produced. In 2005, Van Peebles was the subject of a documentary entitled How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It). He has been honored with numerous awards, including a Grammy and a Drama Desk Award. He received the Children’s Live-Action Humanitas Prize for The Day They Came to Arrest the Book in 1987, and in 1999, he was awarded the Chicago Underground Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Van Peebles resides in New York City.

Accession Number

A2006.100

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/9/2006

Last Name

Van Peebles

Schools

Ohio Wesleyan University

Thornton Township High School

University of Amsterdam

West Virginia State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Melvin

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

VAN05

Favorite Season

None

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

California

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/21/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Actor, film director, fiction writer, and playwright Melvin Van Peebles (1932 - ) was best known for his 1971 independent film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which was credited with helping start Hollywood's Blaxploitation era in the 1970s. He also wrote novels and two Broadway plays, and acted in several films.

Employment

United States Air Force

United States Postal Service

San Francisco Trolley Company

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Melvin Van Peebles' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Melvin Van Peebles lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls growing up in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his parents' family backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his father's tailor shop in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Melvin Van Peebles describes work experiences from his childhood in Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his sexual relationships as a teenager, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his sexual relationships as a teenager, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls his African Methodist Episcopal upbringing, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls his African Methodist Episcopal upbringing, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls the impact of moving to Phoenix, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls lessons from his father

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his experiences at West Virginia State College

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his experiences at Ohio Wesleyan University

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Melvin Van Peebles remembers his first experience of racial discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls being ostracized at Ohio Wesleyan University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Melvin Van Peebles describes joining the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls segregation in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Melvin Van Peebles talks about how he became interested in the arts

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his decision to leave the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls pursuing relationships with black and white women

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls the birth of his son, Mario Van Peebles

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls moving to San Francisco, California

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls writing about San Francisco's cable cars

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Melvin Van Peebles remembers making his first films

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his career setbacks in San Francisco

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

2$3

DATitle
Melvin Van Peebles remembers making his first films
Melvin Van Peebles describes his career setbacks in San Francisco
Transcript
I called the guy and I said, "Look, I want to make movies." He said, "Great. Is it going to be fiction or," he said, "what's the documentary going to be about?" I said, "I don't want to do a document, I want to make it fiction. I want stories." I said, "How long are movies, anyway? I've been going to movies all my life, triple features and everything else, but I never paid any attention." "Well, they're ninety minutes or a little longer." I said, "Well, how much is film?" He said, "Well, what're you going to shoot it in, in 16 or 35?" I said, "What's that?" He said, "16 or 35 millimeter." I said, "What's that?" I mean, I knew nothing. And he told me, he said, "I got a 16 millimeter camera. And if you want to do it, I'll do it with you. I won't charge you anything for the camera." "Okay." So, my first feature film that I shot turned out to be eleven minutes long. And I began to teach myself bit by bit, nobody taught me. Then I remember we got the first film, the first film I shot, projected on the wall. I said, "Wow, it's okay. The story's here, but it's not right yet." He said, "Of course not, you haven't edited it yet." "What's that?" I mean, that's the level--now film talk is ubiquitous. Everybody knows about this and all that. I never heard--he didn't talk film before. And anyway, I made those short films. And when I, well, first I asked the guy how much it would be. And he told me the price, and I calculated it. And at that time, you could make a feature film for $557; that was my calculation. Shit, no problem, fine. It was a lot of money, but still. But so, I remember the first day we were getting ready to shoot the film, and the guy's out there, "Okay, this is going to be scene four, take this, roll--." "Whoa, wait a minute, the film. Oh, don't use all the film." I had counted how much it costs for ninety minutes of film, period. That's what I counted, not knowing there was editing or this, or none of that. Then after that I said, "Okay, at least we got these shots, and it'll be a little shorter than I thought." The guy said, "Now we got to go to the laboratory and develop it." "Oh, so okay." He said, "No, no, no, no, no, you never touch the negative, you've got to make another print." "What!" (Laughter) In the meantime my wife [Maria Marx] is getting rocks in her jaws the size of Mount Rushmore [Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota]. I have to sell my car, et cetera (laughter). So, but I got it, I got them.$And then that's how I went into music. I couldn't afford any musicians, and all, I mean, musicians who were dependable. Everybody else, "Yeah, brother, I'll be there. Oh, man, you know, I got high last night and my old lady," blah, blah, blah. So I got disgusted, and that's when I numbered the keys on the piano and started picking out melodies. That's what happened. And then I made these little films and I took them down to Hollywood. And they looked at them and said, "Oh, you obviously can't be a director. You see, there's a snowfall in Kilimanjaro [Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania] this year, so therefore--," and blah, blah, blah. "And there're only so many wheels," and you know, all kinds of blah, blah, blah. So I decided that I couldn't--by that time, Mario [Mario Van Peebles] had a sister [Megan Van Peebles] and I had a family to feed, et cetera. So in the meantime, I'd gotten fired from the cable cars [in San Francisco, California], because the guy who runs the cable car said he didn't think--personally, he didn't think Negroes should read, let alone write. And when the book ['The Big Heart,' Melvin Van Peebles] was a success and complimentary to the cable cars, I got fired. I said, "What are you firing me for?" He said, "It looks like you're going to have, your profile fits the profile of someone who's going to have a big accident." They fired my ass. So anyway, what happened was, I go to work to the Negro university, that is, the post office. And ironically, the post office was called the Rincon Annex [Rincon Annex Post Office, San Francisco, California], where--I mean the irony just won't quit, you know what I mean. So I say, "Okay." So then I say, well, I have to go to my second love. And Sputnik [Sputnik 1], the first little Russian satellite had just gone up. You know, the beatniks were really not called beatniks. They were originally called beats, and then the N-I-K was added afterwards. That's what we called the beat generation, and then later on they became beatniks, in honor of Sputnik. So I felt that the future, one of the secure business futures, was going to be in the calculation of trajectories, to keep these things up, which is called celestial mechanics. And the best place for celestial mechanics at that time was Holland [the Netherlands]. So I had the G.I. Bill [Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944], I write to Holland, and I say, "Hey, I'm coming early to brush up on the language," and they accepted me. And on my way to Holland, I came to New York [New York] and took a boat, Mario and Maria [Maria Marx] and Megan and myself, to Holland. I took these three films that I had, and leased them to a little art house, to a film distributor, and went to Europe.

Michael A. Schultz

Film director Michael Schultz was born on November 10, 1938, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After graduating from high school in 1957, Schultz attended the University of Wisconsin, where he spent a great deal of time watching foreign films. After dropping out of school, Schultz returned to Milwaukee where he worked in a steel mill from 1960 to 1961, eventually returning to school, studying at Marquette, and graduating in 1964.

After graduation, Schultz attended Princeton University, where he was given the opportunity to direct his first play, Waiting for Godot, in 1966. Schultz's work brought him to the attention of the Negro Ensemble Company; he joined the group in 1968. The following year, Schultz staged a production of To Be Young, Gifted and Black, which launched his success; he re-staged the play for television two years later. In the early 1970s, Schultz directed a number of television programs, including Baretta and Starsky and Hutch, and then began to focus his time on films. In 1975, Schultz directed Cooley High, and the following year, Car Wash; his success continued, directing more than a dozen movies for the television and the big screen throughout the 70s and 80s, including Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hears Club Band, Krush Groove, about the rise of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and the comedy Disorderlies.

Schultz continued to direct throughout the 1990s, directing a number of popular television shows, including Chicago Hope, JAG, Ally McBeal, and Charmed, as well as several more made for television movies. After 2000, Schultz directed several other television shows, and in 2004, he directed Woman Thou Art Loosed. Schultz has also been involved in film and television production, having served as producer of the popular television show Everwood, as well as having produced some of his earlier film work.

In addition to his work on the big and small screen, Schultz also found time to direct theater; notably his Broadway production of Mule Bone, written by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, staged in 1991.

Accession Number

A2004.193

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/5/2004

Last Name

Schultz

Maker Category
Middle Name

A.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Riverside High School

Marquette University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Michael

Birth City, State, Country

Milwaukee

HM ID

SCH01

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

Wisconsin

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

11/10/1938

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Film director Michael A. Schultz (1938 - ) directed the feature films Cooley High, Car Wash, and Krush Groove, as well as the television shows Chicago Hope and Ally McBeal.

Employment

Steel Mill

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Michael A. Schultz's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Michael A. Schultz lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Michael A. Schultz talks about his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Michael A. Schultz describes his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Michael A. Schultz talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Michael A. Schultz describes the origin of the Schultz family name

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Michael A. Schultz describes his father's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Michael A. Schultz lists the members of his childhood household

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Michael A. Schultz describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Michael A. Schultz remembers growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Michael A. Schultz details his early activities

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Michael A. Schultz recalls converting to Catholicism

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Michael A. Schultz describes radio and television programming from his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Michael A. Schultz describes radio and television programming from his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Michael A. Schultz reflects upon his early ambitions

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Michael A. Schultz remembers activities he participated in and movies he saw during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Michael A. Schultz recalls his career goals before entering college

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Michael A. Schultz describes his time at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Michael A. Schultz describes Riverside High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Michael A. Schultz describes his interest in film at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Michael A. Schultz describes his favorite films and directors

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Michael A. Schultz explains his decision to leave University of Wisconsin-Madison in Madison, Wisconsin

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Michael A. Schultz remembers entering the theater program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Michael A. Schultz remembers Reverend John J. Walsh's approach to theatrical directing

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Michael A. Schultz describes his theater experience at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Michael A. Schultz describes his theatrical training at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Michael A. Schultz recalls moving to New York City in 1964

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Michael A. Schultz recalls working for Wynn Handman at New York's American Place Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Michael A. Schultz recalls acting in 'Benito Cereno' at New York's American Place Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Michael A. Schultz describes how he met his wife, Gloria Schultz (Lauren Jones)

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Michael A. Schultz remembers directing 'Waiting for Godot' and 'The Emperor Jones' at Princeton's McCarter Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Michael A. Schultz remembers the Negro Ensemble Company's inaugural season

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Michael A. Schultz describes directing 'Song of the Lusitanian Bogey' for New York's Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Michael A. Schultz remembers the success of 'Song of the Lusitanian Bogey' at New York's Negro Ensemble Company

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Michael A. Schultz recalls the success of the play 'Kongi's Harvest'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Michael A. Schultz recalls directing his first film, 'To Be Young, Gifted and Black'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Michael A. Schultz considers his transition from theater to film

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Michael A. Schultz remembers directing the play 'Dream on Monkey Mountain'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Michael A. Schultz describes his transition to Hollywood in the early 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Michael A. Schultz describes his failure to produce the film 'Death at an Early Age'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Michael A. Schultz remembers his first Hollywood experience directing an episode of 'Roll Out,' pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Michael A. Schultz remembers his first Hollywood experience directing an episode of 'Roll Out,' pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Michael A. Schultz details the creation of the film 'Cooley High'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Michael A. Schultz describes the cast members from the film 'Cooley High'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Michael A. Schultz reflects upon the audience response to the film 'Cooley High'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Michael A. Schultz describes the dialogue and music in 'Cooley High'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Michael A. Schultz recalls challenges he faced in the white movie industry while directing 'Cooley High'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Michael A. Schultz considers Hollywood opportunities for women and minorities

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Michael A. Schultz reflects upon the success of the independent film 'Woman Thou Art Loosed'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Michael A. Schultz remembers the offer from Universal Studios to direct 'Car Wash'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Michael A. Schultz describes his experience directing 'Car Wash'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Michael A. Schultz remembers directing Richard Pryor in the film 'Which Way Is Up?'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Michael A. Schultz describes Richard Pryor's descent into drug addiction

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Michael A. Schultz remembers being recruited to direct the film 'Bustin' Loose' after Richard Pryor's accident

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Michael A. Schultz describes the success of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Michael A. Schultz describes directing the cult classic 'The Last Dragon'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Michael A. Schultz describes the achievements of the film 'Krush Groove'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Michael A. Schultz describes the exclusion of black films from movie theaters

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Michael A. Schultz describes the film 'Woman Thou Art Loosed'

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Michael A. Schultz shares his philosophy of filmmaking

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Michael A. Schultz reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Michael A. Schultz shares his perspective on young black filmmakers

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Michael A. Schultz describes the work of Robert Townsend, Bill Duke and the Wayans brothers

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Michael A. Schultz reflects upon the persistence of African American stereotypes in Hollywood films

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Michael A. Schultz reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Michael A. Schultz describes his mother's pride in his success

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Michael A. Schultz describes his children's successful careers

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Michael A. Schultz describes his current film projects and his definition of a black movie

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Michael A. Schultz describes his marriage to Gloria Schultz (Lauren Jones)

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Michael A. Schultz describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$6

DAStory

11$3

DATitle
Michael A. Schultz remembers entering the theater program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Michael A. Schultz remembers being recruited to direct the film 'Bustin' Loose' after Richard Pryor's accident
Transcript
So what, what happened? Did they get you, they draft you?$$No, no, actually, I, I was kind of shielded (laughter) from, from all of that. I decided--I spent about a year working and going to school part-time at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee [Milwaukee, Wisconsin]. And during that year I had saved up enough money to do something. And I decided that I'd better get my butt back in school because that was the only way I was going to stay out of the--the draft was getting heavier and heavier. And I said, "If I'm going back to school, it has to be something that I would really love to do." And almost out of the blue, it seemed to me at the time, I, I said, "Well, I could go study theater," you know. And I couldn't afford to go to UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California] or USC [University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California] for their film schools, so that was out of the question. And Milwaukee [Wisconsin] had a great theater school at the university, at Marquette University [Milwaukee, Wisconsin] that was a Jesuit college. And friends of mine told me about it and said, "Well, why don't you go check it out," you know? Now during this year of working, I, I had also gotten involved with a community theater and wound up being in a production of 'Finian's Rainbow' in the chorus, you know, and all of that. And I was telling my mother [Katherine Leslie], you know, I really love--I, I could, I could do this for a living; I could be in the theater. This is great fun, you know. And she was always the encouraging type. And her attitude was, whatever you want to do, just be the best at it, just do it, you know. So when I decided to go try and get into the university, to Marquette University, it was kind of a, a long shot because it, it was a private college, university, and I didn't have that kind of money. And when I went to talk to the priest [Reverend John J. Walsh] who ran it [Marquette University Players], I said, "Look, I'd love to be involved in theater, but I can't really afford it. Do you have any scholarships?" And it just so happened that the student who was designing the lights for the theater was leaving, and they needed to replace him. So, he made a deal with me: if, if I learned how to design lights and became the lighting director, that I'd get a scholarship. And that's how I got through Marquette.$$Okay, well, what year did you come out of Marquette?$$I graduated Marquette in '63 [1963]--'64 [1964].$Then he [Richard Pryor] had this accident where he set himself on fire. And he called me--oh, he had done another movie called 'Bustin' Loose,' which had been put on the shelf at Universal [Studios]--and it was a project of his heart--that they hired a young director, a new director, who had never directed a movie before, a producer who had never produced a film before--done television--a DP [director of photography] who had never shot a feature before (laughter). They surrounded him with people who were doing their first movie, and so it was disastrous, and it was unreleasable. And when the studio found out that he wasn't going to die, he--here he is, guy is laying covered in bandages in the burn ward, and they call him up and say, "Richard, we're glad you're okay. Will you finish," (laughter), "finish the movie when you get well?" (Laughter) And because it was dear to his heart, you know, he said yes. And then he called me and asked me if I would come talk with him and, and direct, you know, try and fix it. So I go visit him. He's recovering in Hawaii, in his house in, in Maui [Hawaii]. And he, he can hardly move because of the skin grafts, you know, and all of that. And he sits down on the couch, and he says, you know, "I don't--my heart is really not in this business anymore because it's a waste of time." And he said, "But I really want to do this picture," you know. "So, will you help me do it?" And I couldn't, couldn't say no. So I got the studio to throw away half of the footage and let me reshoot half the movie. And I rehired the writer that Richard had fired, you know, the original guy. And we, we took the pieces that were, that were salvageable, 'cause they had Cicely Tyson doing a wonderful role, and, and Richard, and all these kids, and took the pieces and then created a script around what was salvageable that made sense, you know. And then two years later the kids had grown, you know, six inches. Richard was--we're trying to--hide his burns, you know. And, and trying to make all of that match was a major feat. And the picture went on to gross $35 million or whatever and be a big success because it had a lot of heart in it. So that's my Richard Pryor story.

William Greaves

Filmmaker William Greaves was born in New York City to parents from Jamaica and Barbados. Growing up in Harlem, Greaves attended Stuyvesant High School, and after graduating in 1944, attended the City College of New York. Greaves spent 1948 studying under German-born avant-garde filmmaker Hans Richter. After appearing in the musical Finian's Rainbow, Greaves was invited to join the prestigious Actors Studio in New York, where he trained with Marlon Brando and Shelley Winters.

Greaves began his career as an actor, and appeared in the Broadway hit, Lost in the Stars, as well as films such as 1948's Souls of Sin. Relocating to Canada in 1952, Greaves worked for the National Film Board as a writer and director. While in Canada, Greaves studied under John Grierson, regarded as the father of modern documentary film making. After returning to the United States in 1961, Greaves joined the International Civil Aviation Organization as a public information officer producing films for the organization, and in 1963 he went to work for the United Nations Film and Television Department in the African Academy of Arts and Research. Greaves formed William Greaves Productions in 1964, and soon thereafter began producing his own works. Greaves' first feature film, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, was released in 1968, the same year he began producing television's Black Journal, a monthly television newsmagazine airing on public television. Black Journal aired until 1970, and received an Emmy in 1969.

After leaving Black Journal, Greaves returned to independent film making with his 1971 Ali, the Fighter. Since then, Greaves has been prolific in his art, producing films such as Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice, From These Roots, and his most recent work, Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey. In all, he has produced more than 200 documentary films and has received more than seventy international film festival awards. He has been inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, received special tribute at the first Black American Independent Film Festival in Paris, and has received an "Indy," the Life Achievement Award of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers. Greaves has been a member of the Actors Studio for fifty-five years, and is the chairman of the Film Committee of the Princess Grace Foundation. Greaves and his wife, Louise, resided in New York.

Accession Number

A2003.082

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/17/2003

Last Name

Greaves

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Stuyvesant High School

Archival Photo 2
First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

GRE06

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring, Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Dakaras, Senegal, Malibu, California, Goa, India

Favorite Quote

A race without knowledge of it's history and like a tree without roots.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

10/8/1925

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chinese, West Indian, Caribbean Food

Death Date

8/25/2014

Short Description

Documentary filmmaker, stage actor, and film director William Greaves (1925 - 2014 ) began his career as an actor, but turned to film making. In 1963, he went to work for the United Nations Film and Television Department in the African Academy of Arts and Research, and later formed William Greeves Productions. Greaves has produced more than 200 documentary films, and has received more than seventy international film festival awards.

Employment

National Film Board of Canada

International Civil Aviation Organization

United Nations Film and Television Department

William Greaves Productions

Favorite Color

Olive Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Greaves's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Greaves discusses his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Greaves discusses his ancestors' origins

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Greaves tells of his father's emigration from Barbados and his personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Greaves discusses his mother's personality and how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Greaves talks about his siblings and his parents' education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Greaves talks about growing up in Harlem and his interest in African studies

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Greaves discusses Africanist and scholar William Leo Hansberry

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Greaves discusses his intellectual peers in Harlem

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Greaves talks about his parents' role in his early education and the fault with America's media and educational systems

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Greaves discusses his academic education and his early interest in art

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Greaves discusses his early career in the performing arts and on screen

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Greaves talks more about his early acting career

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Greaves details the racist attitudes that caused him to abandon acting and leave the United States

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Greaves discusses his work with the National Film Board of Canada

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Greaves discusses his return to the United States from Canada and his filmmaking career

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Greaves discusses his time in Dakar, Senegal with Langston Hughes

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Greaves discusses his film productions with various U.S. government agencies

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Greaves talks about his film 'Still A Brother: Inside the Negro Middle Class'

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Greaves details his experiences while working on the 'Black Journal' television series

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Greaves discusses his decision to transfer control of the 'Black Journal' television series to Tony Brown

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - William Greaves talks more about 'Black Journal' and compares it to others with a similar format

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - William Greaves details his documentary, 'Nationtime, Gary,' and the response it received from mainstream media outlets

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Greaves discusses his film, 'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William Greaves discusses his film 'Ali, the Fighter' and its impact on Hollywood films about boxing

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William Greaves discusses his film, 'Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William Greaves talks more about his film on Ralph Bunche

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William Greaves discusses his film 'Voice of La Raza' and his experience with actor Anthony Quinn

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William Greaves discusses the perspective needed for a successful black filmmaker

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Greaves gives advice to future filmmakers, and talks about those who inspired him

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Greaves discusses intellectual role models and the 'William Greaves Aesthetic' found in his films

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Greaves relates his impressions and relationships with notable people in the arts

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William Greaves details more of his impressions of the notable people in the arts

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William Greaves talks about his hopes for today's black community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - William Greaves discusses his parents' reactions to his career choices

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - William Greaves discusses what his legacy may be

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - William Greaves discusses how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Photo - William Greaves, age fourteen. Class photo from Fredrick Douglass Junior High School, New York, New York, 1940s

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Photo - William Greaves, age eleven, with Albert Popwell and others after a school play at PS89 Elementary School, New York, New York, late 1930s

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves from one of his acting roles, New York, New York, late 1940s

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves from one of his acting roles, late 1940s

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves from one of his acting roles, late 1940s

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Photo - Sir Alistair Cooke's photograph of William Greaves dressed as an Arab, Egypt, 1950s

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Photo - William Greaves's mother, Phyllis Emily Muir Greaves, New York, New York, early 1930s

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Photo - William Greaves with his wife, Louise Archambault Greaves, 1995

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - William Greaves with his great-granddaughter, Lauren, 1990s

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - William Greaves's friend, Emily, ca. 1950s

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - William Greaves with Senegalese filmmaker, Ousmane Sembène and unidentified woman, 1990s

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - William Greaves working on 'Getting to Know Me' television series, during the 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - William Greaves with filmmakers Satyajit Ray and Elia Kazan, New York, New York, 1978

Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - William Greaves with Louise Archambault Greaves, the President of India, Giani Zail Singh, and others in India, 1985

Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - William Greaves with 'Black Journal' production staff, Madeline Anderson and Kent Garrett, New York, New York, 1968-1969

Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - William Greaves with author Toni Morrison, New York, New York, 1988

Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - William Greaves with the 'Black Journal' film crew, New York, New York, 1968

Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - William Greaves with Louise Archambault Greaves and Bobby Shepherd, 1990

Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - William Greaves with Louise Archambault Greaves and Dr. Robert Edgar, 1997

Tape: 6 Story: 21 - Photo - William Greaves with Mel Ferrer and Susan Douglas, reuniting with the cast from the movie 'Lost Boundaries,' 1995

Tape: 6 Story: 22 - Photo - William Greaves with actor Anthony Quinn and William H. Brown at the movie screening of 'Voice of La Raza,' 1972

Tape: 6 Story: 23 - Photo - William Greaves producing the film on either Booker T. Washington or Frederick Douglass, 1985-1986

Tape: 6 Story: 24 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves, 1995

Tape: 6 Story: 25 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves, 1995

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Photo - William Greaves on the set of his movie, 'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One,' New York, New York, 1968

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Photo - William Greaves in his office at William Greaves Productions, Inc., New York, New York, 1999

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Photo - Publicity photograph of William Greaves, 1995

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
William Greaves discusses his film, 'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One'
William Greaves discusses his film 'Voice of La Raza' and his experience with actor Anthony Quinn
Transcript
So the film ['Nationtime Gary'] on the Gary [Indiana] Convention [of the first National Black Political Assembly, 1972] didn't get (unclear) we were just talking about that so next I guess. Oh, you made a film in '68 [1968] called 'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One.' (laughs)$$(Simultaneously) 'Take One'.$$'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One' is a very weird film, experimental avant-garde. As a matter of fact Steven Soderbergh [film producer] is crazy about the film and he said that, "This is the film that Jean-Luc Godard tried to make, you know, in the '70s [1970s] and so on, the '60s [1960s]." It's a, it's a film that is in many ways a revolutionary film. Revolutionary in it's artistic embrace of styles of, of filmmaking that were, at the time that that was coming, made, very new, that was cinéma vérité [filmmaking style that stresses unbiased realism] very, very new type of filming that had been used in documentaries by and large only and what I dared to do was to bring cinéma vérité style--the cinéma vérité style of filmmaking into the feature film arena. And so that was one aspect of it, but it had a number of other aspects which is very enigmatic for most people. I mean most people are not aware of the improvisational, role, the role that improvisation plays in the actor's performance. Most people are not aware of scientific principals like the [Werner] Heisenberg Theory of Uncertainty [quantum mechanics theory discovered in 1927] where you talk about the fact that we, as human beings, will never know what reality is because the means of perception of the ultimate reality, which is the atom, cannot be seen because of the fact--that that is the electrons of the atom cannot be seen because the means of perception is an electron microscope which sets out a beam of electrons at the atom and it knocks the electrons out of their respective orbits, so it doesn't get a chance to really see the atom, you see. And this, this comes from out of my science background of Stuyvesant High School [New York, New York] and that sort of thing. So there is, there's that plus there's the Second Law of Thermodynamics [theory explained by physicist Rudolf J. E. Clausius in 1850], then there's Hindu mysticism and Sri Aurobindo. There are all kinds of elements that are involved in this production. It's very controversial subject matter that's designed to provoke debate and discussion and most people are not aware of all these elements coming into play, but when you see the film, you can't take your eyes off the screen because it has that quality of drawing you in and you just don't know where you are, but you're watching it, you know. You just can't stop watching it and by the end of the film you realize it was a very interesting film that in the face of all the dissent, if you will, by the crew and rebellion by the crew against the, the content and against the style of shooting, it still is an interesting movie. And it's been at fifteen or seventeen film festivals by now, and we're going to make the sequel to it at some point this year, I guess.$Now, you made a film on La Raza ['Voice of La Raza,' 1972].$$Oh, yeah, Anthony Quinn, yeah. Yeah, well that was an interesting project, actually, because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission commissioned us to do a film on the Latino experience with respect to employment in the United States, and the--I had put the film together, and then I said, "Oh, it would be a good idea if I could get Anthony Quinn, 'cause he's Latino and he has a crossover capability. It would be interesting to get him to narrate the film." So I contacted him and he said, "Well, I don't know," he says, "What is this, a documentary?" I said, "Yes. It's a documentary." He said, "Well, you know, I'm in features and so on." Anyway, I kept bugging him, I kept, you know, pursuing him and finally he said, "Well, listen--," he said, "you come out here," he said, "let me see some of the films that you've done." So I had done a film called 'Power Versus the People' [1970] with, and in that film it deal with the transgressions, the abuses of the corporate establishment against the Latinos as well as African Americans. So I flew out to California and I showed it to Quinn, and he was very moved with it, you know, and then I showed him, also, the material that I wanted him to narrate, and he said, "This is fantastic stuff," he says, but I said, "Well, will you narrate it?" And he said, "I not only will narrate it. I want to be in it." You know, so I said, "Well, fine," so I got this crew together on a moment's notice and we filmed him in Albuquerque, New Mexico and, as well as Los Angeles [California] and made the film. And it won, I think, four or five film festival awards, I can't remember now. But it was very successful and still is. I mean it still gets called for. My company [William Greaves Productions, Inc.] gets orders for distribution of the film to various, you know, Latino groups as well as non, non-Latino groups.

Gordon Parks

A versatile and prolific artist, Gordon Parks, Sr., warrants his status as a cultural icon. The poet, novelist, film director, and preeminent documentary and fashion photographer was born on November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas, the youngest of fifteen children. Parks saw no reason to stay in Kansas after the death of his mother and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, at age sixteen to live with his sister. After a disagreement with his brother-in-law, Parks soon found himself homeless, supporting himself by playing piano and basketball and working as a busboy.

While working on a train as a waiter, Parks noticed a magazine with photographs from the Farm Security Administration (FSA). The photos by such documentary photographers as Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee and Arthur Rothstein led him to Richard Wright’s 12 Million Black Voices, other photo essays about poverty and racism, and the social and artistic voice he had been seeking. Parks bought a used camera in 1938, deciding on a career in photography. In 1941, Parks received a fellowship from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation to work with Roy Stryker at the photography section of the FSA. In Washington, D.C., he trained as a photojournalist. He would work with Stryker for the next few years, producing work and honing the modernist and individualistic style he became known for by photographing small towns and industrial centers throughout America.

By the end of the 1940s, Parks was working with Life and Vogue and in that capacity did some of his most famous work. Traveling the globe and covering issues as varied as the fashion industry, poverty in Brazil, the Nation of Islam, gang violence, and eventually celebrity portraitures, Parks continued to develop and create new ways to convey meaning through his work.

Branching out from his photography in 1963, Parks directed his first film, The Learning Tree, based on his autobiographical novel of the same name. Parks went on to direct many films, including Shaft in 1971. In addition to film, Parks composed music and written several books including: A Choice of Weapons (1966), To Smile in Autumn (1979), Voices in the Mirror (1990), Arias of Silence (1994), and a retrospective of his life and work titled Half Past Autumn (1997), which was recently made into an HBO special.

Parks passed away on March 7, 2006 at the age of 93.

Accession Number

A2001.054

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

3/12/2001

Last Name

Parks

Organizations
Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Gordon

Birth City, State, Country

Fort Scott

HM ID

PAR02

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Mark D. Goodman

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Southern France, Vail, Colorado

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/30/1912

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak, Salad

Death Date

3/7/2006

Short Description

Fiction writer, film director, and photographer Gordon Parks (1912 - 2006 ) worked for Life and Vogue magazines, traveling around the world to photograph varied issues such as the fashion industry, poverty in Brazil, the Nation of Islam, gang violence, and eventually celebrity portraitures. Branching out from his photography in 1963, Parks directed his first film, 'The Learning Tree', based on his autobiographical novel of the same name. Parks went on to direct many films, including 'Shaft.' Parks has also composed music and written several books including 'A Choice of Weapons.'

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue, Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gordon Parks' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gordon Parks's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gordon Parks explains how he wrote 'The Learning Tree'

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gordon Parks describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gordon Parks describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gordon Parks describes his childhood home

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gordon Parks discusses his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gordon Parks shares memories of childhood games, musical instruments and death

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gordon Parks discusses the racial relations of his childhood neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gordon Parks retells the trial story from 'The Learning Tree'

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Gordon Parks describes the racial interactions growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gordon Parks recalls his mother's death

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gordon Parks moves to St. Paul, Minnesota

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gordon Parks discusses confrontation with brother-in-law

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gordon Parks's homelessness in St. Paul, Minnesota

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gordon Parks plays with the House of David Basketball Team

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gordon Parks discusses his friends and future wife

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gordon Parks becomes a traveling musician

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gordon Parks travels to Harlem, NY

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Gordon Parks discusses his piano inspirations and talent development

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gordon Parks discusses his experience with gypsies

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gordon Parks is inspired to purchase his first camera

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gordon Parks plays the Harlem Globetrotters

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gordon Parks discusses his first role of pictures

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gordon Parks wins the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship and works with the Farm Security Administration

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gordon Parks discusses his mentor, Roy Stryker

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gordon Parks describes the camera as a weapon

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gordon Parks discusses 'American Gothic' (1942)

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gordon Parks begins career at 'Life' magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gordon Parks is assigned to 'Life' magazine's Paris office

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gordon Parks describes a racial incident in Paris, France

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gordon Parks creates a piano concerto

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gordon Parks discusses the end of his marriage with Sally

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gordon Parks discusses violence as a 'Life' photographer

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gordon Parks discusses danger as a 'Life' Magazine Photographer

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gordon Parks discusses the film, 'The Learning Tree'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gordon Parks discusses the film, 'Shaft'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gordon Parks discusses 'Half Past Autumn'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gordon Parks discusses what he wishes he'd done

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gordon Parks discusses poetry in his art

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gordon Parks reads from 'Half Past Autumn'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gordon Parks considers his Legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Poster -- Gordon Parks with the House of David Basketball Team (1930s)

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Poster -- Detail of Gordon Parks with the House of David Basketball Team (1930s)

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo -- Gordon Parks's Mother, Sarah Parks

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo -- Gordon Parks's Father, Andrew Jackson Parks (1939)

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo -- Gordon Parks with Actress Dina Merrill

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo -- Gordon Parks Receives 45th Honorary Doctorate from Princeton University (May 2000)

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo -- Gordon Parks

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo -- Gordon Parks's Third Wife, Gene

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo -- Gordon Parks with David Dinkins

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo -- Gordon Parks and Family Members

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo -- Gordon Parks's Great-Grandson, Ramsey

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo -- Gordon Parks with Muhammad Ali

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

8$4

DATitle
Gordon Parks discusses 'American Gothic' (1942)
Gordon Parks creates a piano concerto
Transcript
What made you decide that composition? That's what's almost even amazing. You know, I mean, what made you would put the things like that with the flag in the background. Was that just, did you -- were you conscious of what -- you were somewhat conscious of what you were doing.$$Yeah. Having gone to the [South Side Community] Art Center in Chicago [Illinois], seeing some of the fine paintings and things for the first time in my life, I remember Grant Wood's 'American Gothic,' and I remember the guy with the pitchfork was standing with his wife in front of the barn and looking straight into the camera. That picture stuck with me for some reason or another, the simplicity of it and the artfulness of it. So when I came - when I had suffered the discrimination in Washington [District of Columbia] the first day I was there, I was refused in Garfinkel's Department Store. I was refused in a restaurant, refused in a theater, couldn't go in the white theater. I was angry, you know, seething, you know, and I went back, and [Roy] Stryker knew that, and he had sent me on the assignment. He knew it was gonna upset me, and he wanted to see how I would react to it, and I didn't know about Washington, D. C., in 1942 so he said, "Well, what'd you bring your camera down for?" when I told him. He asked me, "How did it go?" I said, "Well, you know how it went." He said, "Well, what did you bring your camera down here for?" I said, "Well, I don't know. What's that got to do with it?" He said, "You know, talk to some other black people down here, older people especially who've been through all their lives what you went through this afternoon and turn the camera against them. Now you just can't photograph a bigot and write 'bigot' underneath his photograph 'cause bigots have a way of looking like anybody else and sometimes even better." He said, "So you have to get at the roots of bigotry. Talk to some of the older people who've been through all their lives what you went through today," and he left and went home. And I was left in the office alone my first day there, 14th and Independence Avenue [Washington, D. C.]. The only person left was this woman sweeping the floor, a black woman and mopping. She looked like a black woman, and I asked her name, and she told me her name. And I said, "Well, can you tell me a little about your life?" And there had been a lynching in her life. Her daughter had died from childbirth, and she was now taking care of six kids, her kids on a salary that she couldn't hardly support herself on. So, I don't know. Somehow or another Grant Wood popped in my mind. I said, "Can I photograph you?" She said, "Yes." I said, "Where?" She said, "Where do you want me to stand?" I said, "Right in front of that American flag." And I said, "Have a broom in one hand and a mop in the other." And I said, "Now look straight into the camera," and she did, and I took the photograph. A few days later when Stryker saw it, he said, "Well, you got the right idea, but you're gonna get us all fired." (Laughter) I thought the photograph had been destroyed, but I was coming back from -- 'cause a lot of southern congressmen and senators didn't like that picture being in the files of the government. "It's an indictment," one guy said, "against America. It shouldn't be in the file." So I thought it had been tossed out. I got on a plane coming from D.C. -- California to New York, and right on the front page I see Ella Watson, you know from 'American Gothic,' and when I got off the plane here at LaGuardia [Airport, New York], instead of coming home here, I went straight down to Washington [District of Columbia], went to the Library of Congress which is where I found the picture was being kept, and had a negative made so it can never be destroyed. It's in this house right now.$And what would you say was most significant about -- did you learn a lot from the Paris [France] experience? Did it open up your - you learned from the FSA [Farm Security Administration]. Was there something you learned about that, from that Paris experience?$$When I went to Paris, I felt free as an artist for the first time, that I was not necessarily being taken as a black artist but just somebody who was pursuing achievements of some sort, you know. I went to the (unclear) each Sunday which is the house where the great symphony orchestras came, and I would listen to symphonies, ballets, and things of that sort, and learn all cultural aspects that had escaped me, more or less, back in Kansas and places of that sort. I was seeing it all for the first time, and it was a long way from Fort Scott, Kansas, to Paris. And a lot of things were happening with my children, meeting people, great writers and great artists. And I met [Marc] Chagall and other people like Pablo Neruda, the poet who I admire very much even today. I met him in Rome [Italy]. And I learned an awful lot there in a cultural way about how to do things. It almost was magical. My first piano concerto was formed there. I don't know why. I think because I went to a bullfight in Spain and saw a young matador die at the hands of this bull, and it stayed with me. I went back to Paris where I had kept a baby grand piano, started playing on it, and I don't know, just something from this bullfight and the death of this young bullfighter haunted me, you know. And so I started on my first piano concerto which I didn't know at the time it was gonna be a concerto. Dean Dixon, who was a black conductor, would come to Paris because he couldn't get enough work in the United States but he was very well-respected in Europe. He came to the house when I was playing and asked the maid not to disturb me, let me finish doing what I was doing. And after I finished he came in and said, "Ah," you know, "What was that?" And I was just kidding, I said, "Oh, that's my first piano concerto." He said, "Yeah, let me hear some more of it." And so I said, "I was just kidding. I was just noodling around." I said, "it's really from, inspired by a bullfight that I saw up in Madrid [Spain]." He said, "I like it." He said, "If you finish it, I'll perform it with an orchestra in Venice [Italy] in a year and a half. I'll be playing there." So I said, "Are you kidding?" He said, "No, no." He said, "We'll go get the tape machine, you tape it, and we'll send it back to Henry Brant. They can orchestrate it back in New York [New York], and we're gonna do it in Venice." And that's what happened. So I worked off and on for the next year, taping and bringing parts of the music together, and that's when I first realized I could do a piano concerto. But Dean said (unclear). I told him, I said, "You know I've had no training whatsoever in music." He said, "It doesn't make any difference." He said, "You're a good listener, and you must keep listening to your favorite composers, and even when you're talking to your maid or you're talking to your wife or you're angry with your children, keep listening to the good symphony music all the time, and keep it on in the house all the time." So that's what I did, and out of it came my first piano concerto, and I went to Venice to hear him when he performed it there at the Doge's Palace.

Ossie Davis

Writer, director, actor, and producer Ossie Davis has established a phenomenal career, remaining throughout, a strong voice for artists' rights, human dignity, and social justice.

Ossie Davis was born on December 18, 1917, in Cogdell, Georgia, to loving parents and a supportive extended family. Graduating in the top five percent of his class with an already burgeoning interest in theater, Davis had to earn enough money before venturing on to college. A year after graduation, with his savings in tow, Davis hitchhiked from Georgia to Washington, D.C., to live with his aunts. There, he received the National Youth Administration scholarship and enrolled at Howard University in the fall of 1935.

At Howard University, Davis would find a nurturing environment to cultivate both his ideas and his talents. Impatient to try his luck on the actual stage, Davis left Howard University for New York City. It was in Harlem in 1939 that he became involved with the Rose McClendon Players.

Davis made his Broadway debut in 1946 in Jeb, where he met his wife and fellow actress, Ruby Dee. Davis went on to perform in many Broadway productions, including Anna Lucasta, The Wisteria Trees, Green Pastures, Jamaica, Ballad for Bimshire, A Raisin in the Sun, The Zulu and the Zayda, and the stage version of I'm Not Rappaport. In 1961, he wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed Purlie Victorious. Davis was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1994.

Davis has written and directed numerous films, including Cotton Comes to Harlem and Countdown at Kusini (co-produced with his wife), the first American feature film shot entirely in Africa by Black professionals. He most recently appeared in the films Dr. Dolittle, Get on the Bus, and I'm Not Rappaport.

Davis was a leading activist in the civil rights era of the 1960s. He joined Martin Luther King, Jr., in the crusade for jobs and freedom and to help raise money for the Freedom Riders. He eulogized both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X at their funerals. He remains an activist today.

Davis has received innumerable honors and citations, including the Hall of Fame Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement in 1989; the U.S. National Medal for the Arts in 1995; the New York Urban League Frederick Douglas Award; NAACP Image Award; and the Screen Actor's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. He has enjoyed a long and luminous career in entertainment along with his wife and fellow performer, stage and screen collaborator, and political activist, Ruby Dee. They have recently published a joint autobiography, With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together.

Accession Number

A2001.026

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/9/2001

Last Name

Davis

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ossie

Birth City, State, Country

Cogdell

HM ID

DAV01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Barbados

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/18/1917

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

2/4/2005

Short Description

Film director, screenwriter, stage actor, and film actor Ossie Davis (1917 - 2005 ) established a phenomenal career, remaining throughout, a strong voice for artists' rights, human dignity, and social justice. Davis appeared in countless theatrical performances and feature length films and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1994. Davis has written and directed numerous films, including 'Cotton Comes to Harlem' and 'Countdown at Kusini.' Davis was a passionate activist throughout his life, and had the honor to eulogized both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X at their funerals.

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ossie Davis interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ossie Davis's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ossie Davis describes his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ossie Davis gives recollections about his father's personality and his mother's sewing skills

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ossie Davis describes the neighborhood of his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ossie Davis talks about his religious and formal educations

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ossie Davis recalls a racist incident from his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ossie Davis recalls his high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ossie Davis details his father's career aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ossie Davis talks about his decision ot attend Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ossie Davis discusses his mentor Alain LeRoy Locke and his decision to become an actor

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ossie Davis recalls his first forays into political activism

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ossie Davis talks about his depression and the events following World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ossie Davis talks about his courtship and marriage of Ruby Dee

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ossie Davis talks about the early years of his marriage and surviving McCarthyism

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ossie Davis discusses his developing worldview in relation to his writing

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ossie Davis gives his views on youth, creativity and his future

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ossie Davis is uncomfortable with the idea of 'legacy' and urges people to focus on the future

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ossie Davis ponders his hopes for the black community

DASession

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DATitle
Ossie Davis recalls a racist incident from his childhood
Ossie Davis discusses his mentor Alain LeRoy Locke and his decision to become an actor
Transcript
Now, Waycross [Georgia] had the advantage of this black enclave--segregated, but black--and we saw ourselves in positions of authority--black preachers, black teachers, black people in the barbershop, black doctor, black dentist--but we were surrounded by a hostile world, part of which was the Ku Klux Klan, and there was always the threat that something dire might happen or something--some animosity might break loose and endanger us in the community. And a large part of my own culture--and this I wasn't aware of at the time--a large part of my own culture was not tainted but sort of geared to protect me from the areas where I might inadvertently do something or say something that could get me hurt--how to behave in the presence of white people, and for the black boys particularly, how to relate to the white female--and we were sort of taught this and it was sort of a part of who we were and what we had to absorb. I remember when I was about five or six, coming home from school. I had maybe a couple of books with me. We didn't have book bags in those days, and two policemen in a car drove up, stopped. "Come here, boy." I turned and went to them. "Get in." I got in the car and they drove me down to the police station, and I got out of the car and went in with them. They were not threatening, and I wasn't frightened by them, and when we got inside, you know, they were about their business, and there were others, and they acted as if I was just a kid hanging around, and finally they told jokes and I laughed at them, and then one of them took syrup and poured it on my head, and another gave me some peanut brittle and put me on the streets and told me, "Go home now. Don't get into any devilment," and I did. And although I was five or six, I didn't tell my mama [Laura Cooper Davis] or my daddy [Kince Charles Davis]. I knew that something had been done to me that defined me in a way, but I knew not to tell them because if Daddy were angered or if Mama were threatened, what would I do? So I swallowed that, but I always knew that that really was meant to tell me that I was a nigger and that I had a place and that I should keep in that place. As I think back on it, I think it was designed specifically to get my consent to the system of segregation. In other words, they had to ascertain whether I was going to be a good boy or a bad nigger then, and they ascertained it by my response and me being sensitive and likable and happy. I'm sure I laughed when they laughed, and I didn't feel threatened by the whole thing at all, but they had somehow 'niggerized' me, and it lasted for many a year, and I suppose some of the effects of that were still beyond me.$I studied, as I said before, with Dr. Alain LeRoy Locke who was head of the Department of Philosophy [at Howard University, Washington, D.C.]. Locke was the first black Rhodes Scholar ever (with emphasis), and he had discovered some people like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and whatnot, and was interested in the students and what their ambitions were and where they were going. I passed one of his examinations, and evidently he was impressed by what he saw on the paper and invited me to his office, sat me down, said, "Young man, what are you going to do with yourself?" I told him I wanted to be a writer. He said, "Writer? Write what?" "I want to write plays." He was slightly taken aback. He said, "Where are you from?" He'd already heard the big-foot country accent in my voice. I said, "I'm from Waycross, Georgia." "I don't mean Waycr--yeah, Waycross, but where?" I said, "That's the name of the town." He said, "You want to write, you say?" "Yes." "Write plays for the theater?" I said, "Oh, yes." "Have you ever been in the theater?" "Oh, yeah. Every Saturday night in Waycross we used to go to see the cowboy pictures." "No, no, no, no. Live people up on the stage?" And I said, "Well, I did go to the Howard Theater [Washington, D.C.], and I saw Billie Holiday and Ethel Waters." He said, "No, that's still not it. Actors in a play up on stage. You never saw?" I said, "No, sir." "You're gonna write plays and you never even saw one play?" I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "Well, I tell you what you do. When you finish here, you go to New York where the theater is. Go to Harlem [New York], and there's a little theater group there called the Rose McClendon Players. You tell them I sent you. Ask them to let you join. If they let you join, then join the company, and once you join, you do everything that's possible for you to do--act, sing, dance, build scenery, paint sets, hustle lemonade, push programs--whatever." And this to me was such wisdom. I mean, this was what I had really come to college to find out so once he told me that, I had what I came so I didn't bother to stay to graduate. I decided to go to New York and find this little place. There was--our plan was--my friend and I who decided to go to New York--was to go on April 16th, 1939. It turned out that that was the Sunday Marian Anderson was going to sing at the [Abraham] Lincoln Memorial so we delayed our, delayed our departure for a full week so we could hear Marian Anderson, and standing there listening to that voice and becoming aware of what that voice was doing, reaching inside of me and making me--empowering me, making me bigger and stronger than what I, what I was. It was, it was almost like a religious conversion listening to Marian Anderson. But anyway that next Sunday, my friend and I caught the train from Penn [Pennsylvania] Station in Washington [D.C.] and went on up to Harlem. Now Medas, who as I said was West Indian, had worked out a ploy for my friend and me to survive for awhile. The ploy was this. I was to pretend that I was a West Indian and go into the West Indian community with this letter from Eldon, and if I were accepted, they would find me a job and do all those things so I took Eldon's letter, went to Harlem, found the people to whom he had written the letter, went to them. They found me a place to stay and ultimately found me a job in the garment center, and I got to Harlem Sunday, April 23rd, I think it was, and Monday the 24th, I found the Rose McClendon Players. It was situated at the 124th Street [public] library in the basement. I walked in the door, entered the theater, and I suppose that was the end of my search. I had found the place that was gonna be my home, my career, and everything--Rose McClendon Players.