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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.

Lorenzo Morris

Political science professor Lorenzo Morris, chair of the Political Science Department at Howard University, and author and consultant on international and American public policy and electoral behavior, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, on October 27, 1946. Morris’s parents, Annie Leola Crouch Morris and Henry Grady Morris, Jr. moved to Poughkeepsie from Columbus, Georgia, before Morris was born. Morris received his early education in Poughkeepsie public schools before continuing his studies at Fisk University, Oberlin College, and Yale University; he received his Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in political science from the University of Chicago.

In addition to his position at Howard University, Morris’s academic career included teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a research fellowship at the Brookings Institution, and an appointment as a Senior Fellow in the Institute for the Study of Educational Policy. Outside of academia, Morris often provided commentary on public affairs for television and radio; he was the author of five scholarly books on race and presidential politics, higher education policy, and party politics as well as numerous articles on political matters including African American politics, and questions of race in American public policy. Internationally, Morris consulted on educational projects in Haiti, Botswana and Indonesia and on matters of electoral participation in Benin and Senegal. As part of the U.S. delegation to Haiti in 1990, Morris advised and observed during the election.

Morris’s additional leadership roles included acting as co-director of the Census Information Center at Howard University, president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, vice-chair of the University Senate, and president of Phi Beta Kappa at Howard University.

Accession Number

A2005.153

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/28/2005

Last Name

Morris

Maker Category
Schools

Morse Young Child Magnet School

Poughkeepsi High School

Fisk University

University of Chicago

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

First Name

Lorenzo

Birth City, State, Country

Poughkeepsie

HM ID

MOR08

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

France

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

10/27/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Turkey

Short Description

Political science professor Lorenzo Morris (1946 - ) is chair of the political science department at Howard University.

Employment

Bookings Institution

Howard University

U.S. Department of State

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lorenzo Morris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Morris lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Morris describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Morris describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Morris describes how his parents met and moved to Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Morris describes his parents' personalities and lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lorenzo Morris describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lorenzo Morris describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lorenzo Morris describes his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lorenzo Morris describes his early interest in political science

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lorenzo Morris describes his education in Poughkeepsie, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Morris recalls racial discrimination at Poughkeepsie High School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Morris shares experiences with racial discrimination in debate clubs

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Morris describes attending Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Morris recalls the March on Washington

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Morris describes the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Morris describes civil rights activities at Fisk University

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lorenzo Morris remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's death

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lorenzo Morris describes his studies and activities at Fisk University

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lorenzo Morris recalls his decision to attend the University of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Morris remembers influential people at the University of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Morris talks about the Watergate Scandal

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Morris describes his political ideology

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Morris talks about travelling to England, France and Quebec, Canada

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Morris recalls his political work in Haiti

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Morris recalls his experience in Sierra Leone

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lorenzo Morris describes his work at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Morris describes his first book, 'The Chit'lin Controversy'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Morris talks about his publications

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Morris reflects upon the National Black Political Convention and the Bakke Case

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Morris reflects on the tenth anniversary of the Million Man March

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lorenzo Morris describes the National Conference of Black Political Scientists

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lorenzo Morris describes the political scientists he admires

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lorenzo Morris describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lorenzo Morris reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lorenzo Morris reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Lorenzo Morris talks about his wife, Marsha Morris

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lorenzo Morris describes his family and in-laws

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lorenzo Morris describes his volunteer work as a political analyst and advisor

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lorenzo Morris describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lorenzo Morris narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Lorenzo Morris recalls the March on Washington
Lorenzo Morris describes his first book, 'The Chit'lin Controversy'
Transcript
My only southern encounter before that was the March on Washington, '63 [1963].$$Okay so you went to the march?$$Um-hm.$$Well that's a big deal.$$Oh, it's a big deal for me (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I think, that's an exciting story--$$Oh yeah it was an escape, my parents [Henry Morris, Jr. and Annie Crouch Morris] did one thing they encouraged us to travel whenever we could, but never without them so it was a big deal for me to go. But fortunately the young single minister was trying to date my aunt, who was a student at Howard [University, Washington, D.C.], and was visiting us during the summer and babysitting us during the summer so that in order to increase his social relations he promised to make sure that I was well supervised. And I can remember there was no seat left on the bus and you know those busses went (gestures), and so they put a stool on so I sat on the stool (laughter) from Poughkeepsie [New York] to Washington [D.C.] but my aunt lived in Washington so I'd been here many times before and I was struck by one thing I always tell my students because it's sort of like a kind of social moment of political significance not for the world but as a symbol is that when you got to Baltimore [Maryland] and I knew how far Baltimore was from D.C. the busses almost came to a stop. And as far as the eye could see, you could see them and there were these people singing, out and blacks off on the side of the road and I can remember them singing my grandmother's songs, 'Will the Circle Be Unbroken' and I thought, this was a whole new world. All my life they told me there were only a few of us blacks 'cause I hadn't seen that many and all of a sudden there were all of these people. All who thought the same thing, even knew the songs and it was the most moving moment for me, more than the--Mart- King's [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] speech which I liked, but it was that long slow movement from Baltimore to Washington where every fa- black people waved and symbolized experiences and things that I thought I knew. And so you know it was an indelible point in my mind.$$Yeah, I can see that, yeah, so were you very--when you were at the march were you very, were you close or were you far back in the crowd or (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I was close enough; I always look for old pictures to see if you can see this kid, believe it or not I wasn't tall, swinging feet over the reservoir near the front. And you know, I got to see King as he came by and I remember [HistoryMaker] Andrew Young 'cause I thought he was young and he looked young. I remember Mahalia Jackson song ['How I Got Over'] which I thought was wonderful. As a snotty little debate student I analyzed King's speech so I really didn't pay attention to it as a moving--it just looked at the structure (laughter).$$What was the most, other than the numbers of people there, what was the most important thing about that day that you remember?$$I think it was the nervousness, not by me, everybody thinking--it's hard for--to remember that at the time people thought there would be violence. And I had all these little umble [ph.] notes, numbers to call and places to go if anything happened and of course nothing happened. But I can remember this sense of sort of success that it went off well that people came, that--oh and when I got back, my brothers and sisters--I had gone to something important. Now in Poughkeepsie [New York] anything outside of three blocks was already a big deal. I had gone to something important and come back. It was a, I mean, I've been to Madagascar, and I've been to--but never nothing equaled that trip to Washington and will ever in terms of distance, distance from an enclosed little environment.$Well, tell us about what, what was your first book and--?$$First book was done largely as a collection of work--research from graduate school [University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois] with a friend of mine [HistoryMaker] Charles Henry who's down at Berkeley [University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California]. And it's called, 'The Chit'lin Controversy[: Race and Public Policy in America]', and as I've often noted to those who laugh about the title, it's the only book that I've had that's gone into several reprints. It was cert- I certainly would not have picked the title now, but I picked it then because it was a little bit shocking and disturbing and because I thought it reflected the shockingness, shocking character reflected part of the issue. It relates to a story by Bontemps--Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes in a book called, 'Negro Folklore' ['The Book of Negro Folklore'] and in this book the black guy goes into a Washington, D.C. restaurant and I guess it's the late '50s [1950s] or early '60s [1960s] and he asked--it had just been desegregated, something people don't oft- often forget, that Washington was segregated. And, and they're very nice, it's an elegant restaurant and they show them to a table and they--and so he get--they give him the menu and he asks, "Do you have any collard greens?" And they say, "No." Then he said, "Do you have any black-eyed-peas?" And you know how the story goes, then finally he says, "Do you have any chit'lins?" and they say, "No." And he gets up, folds the menu, gets up and says, "You folks just aren't ready for desegregation." And why the story, because it's about the insignificance of what we've called physiological desegregation, of moving people and places that ignores the cultural components of choices and values. And so it focuses heavily, though not exclusively, on education and argues that letting blacks in the white schools if it doesn't change the structure of school administration or selection in choices is insignificant. And so we use this story like that, but we use the story because at the same time it's embarrassing quality, to some extent, 'The Chit'lin Controversy,' helps to bring attention to the fact that African Americans often did not want to recognize that cultural differences were significant, that if everybody had an equal chance of going to schools the testing issues would resolve themselves and people would come out on top which of course hasn't happened because there are cultural sig- significance factors in, in, in evaluation in system and merit. Which we need, I think, to recognize, but also largely we picked the title because we just referred to it, the chit'lin book and by the time it had gotten to the publisher we had no name for it (laughter)--$$(Laughter).$$--was what we called it because that was the opening story and so we left it.$$Okay, all right.$$But I think the value of the observations are significant today that differential systems of merit and reward and of judgment are, are not just equal among individuals because groups have effects on those things and those are things we call cultural.$$Okay, now that, that one was published in--$$Si- almost when I was still a student, it was '76 [1976].$$Okay.$$I wasn't still a student but it had been written when--it was written when I was a student.