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Charles Hobson

Television producer Charles Hobson was born on June 23, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York to Charles Samuel and Cordelia Victoria Hobson. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and, in 1960, he graduated from Brooklyn College. From 1962 to 1963, Hobson served in the United States Army as a private first class.

In 1963, Hobson was hired to host a radio show at WBAI, New York’s Pacifica station. He went on to be promoted to production director at WBAI, where he produced a variety of programs until 1967. Hobson was then hired as a producer for ABC-TV, WABC-TV in New York, and WETA-TV in Washington D.C. In 1968, he produced the television programs Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant and Like It Is, which won seven New York-area Emmy Awards. After attending Emory University from 1974 to 1976, Hobson was promoted to senior vice president of WETA and became a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1980, he produced the PBS series From Jumpstreet: A Story of Black Music, and, in 1986, he was the producer of the nine-part series The Africans. In 1988, Hobson was hired as a consultant for the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. The following year, in 1989, he was hired as the director of market planning for WNET-TV. Hobson also worked on the six-part series Global Links, and the science series Spaces.

In the 1980s, Hobson launched the production company Vanguard Documentaries, where he served as executive producer and artistic head. Vanguard has produced a number of documentaries and shows since its inception, including Porgy and Bess: An American Voice, Model U.N. For Everyone, Global Classrooms, Negroes with Guns, and Harlem in Montmartre: Paris Jazz. Hobson has also lectured at several schools including Harvard University, Yale University, Vassar College, the State University of New York, and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In 1996, he became a Fulbright Scholar and taught film in Munich, Germany.

Hobson has received multiple awards for his work in film. He has been awarded an Emmy, the Japan Prize ‘Special Citation,’ and the Golden Eagle Award from the Council on International Nontheatrical Events. Millimeter magazine has ranked Hobson as one of the fifty top producers in the film and television industry, and, in 2010, he was named a Black Media Legend by the McDonald’s Corporation. Hobson has served on the boards of the America the Beautiful Fund, the National Black Programming Consortium, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Charles Hobson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 23, 2013.

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Brooklyn College

Emory University

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New York



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New York

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Paris, France

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Soon come.

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New York

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New York



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Television producer Charles Hobson (1936 - ) , founder of Vanguard Documentaries, has produced a number of television programs including Like It Is, Harlem in Montmartre: Paris Jazz, Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant, From Jumpstreet: A Story of Black Music, Negroes with Guns, Porgy and Bess: An American Voice, and The Africans.






National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation


Vanguard Documentaries

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Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles Hobson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles Hobson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles Hobson talks about the origin of his middle name

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charles Hobson describes his father's family background.

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles Hobson describes leaving Brooklyn, New York to attend school in Jamaica when he was eleven years old

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles Hobson describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles Hobson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles Hobson describes his childhood experience in Jamaica and his desire to identify as an American

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles Hobson describes both his family's view on African Americans from the Unites States and not the Carribean

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Charles Hobson describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Charles Hobson talks about his siblings and how he has not seen his sister in thirty years

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Charles Hobson describes his childhood experience at Ten Downing Street in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Charles Hobson describes his childhood eating habits and his tendency to identify with immigrants

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Charles Hobson describes his Brooklyn family life and being in the boys' choir at Concord Baptist Church

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles Hobson talks about his attraction to African American family life and his fondness for family gatherings

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

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles Hobson talks about his affinity for the Dodgers and his hero, Jackie Robinson

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles Hobson talks about his experience in middle school at PS3

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles Hobson describes his formative encounter with African American literature as a youth.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles Hobson talks about Brooklyn gangs and the cultural diversity on his neighborhood block

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles Hobson talks about his first social encounters with white women as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles Hobson talks about his athletic ability and being on the Brooklyn College track team

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles Hobson talks about his childhood friends and his college job at Brooks Brothers

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Charles Hobson describes the diversity of his neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Charles Hobson talks about his social life at Brooklyn College.

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Charles Hobson talks about his love of music and jazz culture

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles Hobson talks about his interest in magic

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles Hobson talks about his experience in the National Guard in 1962

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles Hobson talks about his first radio show for WBAI

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles Hobson talks about getting a position as a producer for ABC in 1967

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles Hobson talks about Bill Greaves and his role on the program 'Like It Is'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles Hobson describes his professional relationship with Gil Noble, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles Hobson describes his professional relationship with Gil Noble, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles Hobson talks about joining the Writer's Guild and Mal Goode, the first black correspondent on ABC

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Charles Hobson talks about becoming a writer for the first African American television program, 'Inside Bed-Stuy'

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Charles Hobson discusses meeting Earl Graves and Senator Bobby Kennedy's assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles Hobson talks about his second wife, Cheryl Chisholm

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles Hobson talks about his father's stroke and graduate school at Emory University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles Hobson talks about his talent for raising money

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles Hobson talks about his work at WETA TV in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles Hobson talks about producing his first major documentary series, 'Jump Street' for PBS

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles Hobson talks about producing 'The Africans' for PBS

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles Hobson talks about the documentary series 'The Africans'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles Hobson talks about the production of and fundraising for 'Harlem in Montmartre'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles Hobson talks about the nature of fundraising

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Charles Hobson talks about producing the television project, 'Porgy and Bess', and a project on Black Germans

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles Hobson talks about his battle with cancer

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles Hobson talks about what differentiates him from other producers

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles Hobson talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles Hobson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles Hobson describes the essence of the black experience and the election of President Barack Obama

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charles Hobson reflects upon his legacy







Charles Hobson talks about becoming a writer for the first African American television program, 'Inside Bed-Stuy'
Charles Hobson talks about the documentary series 'The Africans'
So, so why don't you talk about 'Inside Bed-Stuy', can you do that for me? And not, not do it in reference to the articles, the many articles that have been written.$$'Inside Bed-Stuy' was a tactic started by the Kennedys, Bobby Kennedy was going to run for President, and part of his machinery was to have a good reputation in--he had a--there was a--the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation was a kind of poverty a--poverty agency that was inspired or you know by, by Kennedy. And Kennedy ran, really, he had his people. You know I got to meet, you know people, Kennedy people. So and they wanted to start the first black television program and in America, right. And they ended up with--they had put a team together and they had a producer, a guy named--well he was a writer, a very--Leslie Lacy, he's written several books. A brilliant guy. I don't know where--what he's doing now. And he was a friend, you know, brilliant--he wrote about being, living in Africa and all. And I remember we had a drink and he said Charles [Hobson], you know, I can't work with these guys, you know you, you can work with white people, I can't, you know. He said I'm going to, I'm going to tell them to hire you. He didn't have any TV experience either, he was a--and I came out of radio. But I knew Bed-Sty and he knew--so I went and they hired me. He gave me the job, you know, Leslie. So then I became the writer. So I can see--so again we did things like the Persuasions, I remember we had--it was very eclectic, which I sort of like as you can guess. So we had like we had one of the high school, boy's high basketball star cause they'd won the championship that year. And--or a, you know the Persuasions, who I discovered, the group called the Persuasions, doo wop group. The guys went to the projects to interview them and they sang for me, you know and in one of their apartments and I thought this is amazing. So I booked them on the first show. And so we did everything--I'll tell you a story. We were talking about an old man that lived in the neighborhood, he had retired from entertainment world and you might want to put him on the show, you know this is about Bed-Sty. We put him on the show, it was Eubie Blake. You know he was about 79 at the time and because of that, he ended up having a--he lived to 100 and performed to 100, so that was a little--that was some of the--Bedford-Sty was a--was such a rich community, you know this was larger than, you know, 400,000, I think it was at the time 400,000 people. So this show looked at--we had no budget, you know we, we would put a camera in the middle of a house, a park and if it rained, we would--the guests had to use umbrellas. But we captured, you know, an amazing part of, of Brooklyn, you know. Of, of, of a black community. It's never done, never been done. So that, that was 'Inside Bed-Sty'. I was--I was honored at Lincoln Center, Morgan Meade Festival as a producer. And some of the--a couple of the people are still alive. So but most of them aren't, you know.$$So you--what's the--that was hosted--was Roxie Roker--$$Roxie Roker and Jim Lawry.$$Which is, you know he talks about that. I know him from Chicago and--$$He worked for McKenzie, right?$$Right, he worked for McKenzie, that's right.$So what did--how does this--how does it come about? Tell, tell us about not only what you did, but how you did it. We know that the BBC's [British Broadcasting Corporation] involved and you're saying that this was the legitimate co-production with the BBC. So as opposed to you were saying, you know, where BBC does it and you just are happy to slap your name on it as the co-producer. So tell, tell me about--cause I, I, I really think in terms of the, the, the subject matter and the research that went into it, and the information. You know as a viewer, you know who wasn't--I was viewing it. I'm not in production, really, I [unclear]. You know I was, I was struck. I mean I was learning all kinds of new things. And so my question is how did this--was it the, was it the BBC that first approached you, or vice versa, or who is doing what with this?$$I can tell you the story. They're, they're two very distinguished filmmakers, Albert, and I forgot his brother's name, Maysles, and they were, they were working with developing this with the, with the BBC. And then one of the brothers--German guys. One died, I forgot which one, but I said--they told PBS [Public Broadcasting Service], you know you really have to find a black producer, you know. Cause you know we, cause we, we want to do it but you know, it's Africa, everything. So they ended up recommending me and Susan Wild who is the Vice Pres--so that's how I got into 'The Africans'. Again, I, I've had some of the greatest things I've ever gotten into when someone said, you know, handed it to me, basically. You know like 'Like It Is' [unclear]. I, I, there was so many people involved with, with 'The Africans', and I couldn't say it's me, it's not me. It's David Harrison who was the BBC, British equivalent, Executive Producer. Brilliant, brilliant producer. He was about ten years older than me and he was very--and we--when it's a whole bunch of people, you know, it was--we did a book, we had various producers. You know we had three or four film crews. Two crews going at the same time in different parts of Africa, the world, yeah. So it was--they were different. And Ally Mesruley [ph.], you know. Oxford educated, Ally had, you know Ally--so a lot of people were involved. But you have to kind of keep as an Executive Producer, keep your eyes on the ball. Keep, keep the goal in sight, you know as things, you know as things move, move forward. So I think, I think we did that fairly well. So Ally--so it's, it's--film is a cooperative thing. You know like a big--like a documentary, a big thing. There's so many people involved. So yes, it wouldn't happen without me and--but there were a lot of people who, you know who I'd say even played greater roles doing execution of it. So--I like to look for things that were never done and, and even--like we're doing a much smaller--a smaller film crew for PBS on the Flat Iron, which is a wonderful building, Chicago [Illinois] influence. But no one's ever made it. Building on the most photographed--perhaps the most photographed building in New York [City], or in the world. One of the--you know, and with a great history. So we got the opportunity to do--and not even necessary--there was black stories in it, you know which you'll see. So that's kind of my motive.