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Orlando Bagwell

Documentary filmmaker Orlando Bagwell was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Donald Bagwell, Sr. and Barbara Jones Bagwell in a family of seven. He attended Blessed Sacrament School in Baltimore. In 1969, his family moved to Nashua, New Hampshire, where he was a member of the Nashua High School football team. After graduating from high school, Bagwell pursued his B.S. degree in film at the Boston University. He completed his undergraduate studies in 1973 and furthered his education by earning his M.A. degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University in 1975.

In the early 1970s, Bagwell worked for the United South End Settlements (USES) and was active in the organization’s after school program. He later became a substitute teacher for the South Boston Public School District where he taught political science and history. Bagwell was contracted by Boston’s WGBH-TV to work as a film producer in 1975. In 1988, he served as a staff producer for the PBS weekly program Frontline. That same year, he produced a documentary on the Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr.’s presidential campaign entitled Running with Jesse. In 1989, Bagwell founded the Boston based media company, Roja Productions, Inc. and produced Roots of Resistance: A Story of the Underground Railroad. From 1991 until 1994, Bagwell was the executive vice president for the Eyes on the Prize PBS documentary series on the Civil Rights Movement. He produced episodes of the Blackside series entitled Mississippi: Is this America? and Ain’t Scared of Your Jails for which he received the Alfred DuPont Award and the Peabody Award. In 1995, Bagwell served as the executive producer for the not-for-profit WGBH Educational Foundation, and in 1999, he produced the six hour documentary called Africans in America: America’s Journey through Slavery.

Bagwell became the program officer for the Ford Foundation’s Media Arts and Culture unit in 2004. He works with the unit’s director and oversees international operations to accomplish the foundation’s goals.

Orlando Bagwell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 17, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.339

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/17/2007

Last Name

Bagwell

Maker Category
Schools

Nashua High School South

Blessed Sacrament School

Boston University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Orlando

Birth City, State, Country

Baltimore

HM ID

BAG01

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Brazil

Favorite Quote

You Know.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

6/2/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/Berkeley

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sweet Potatoes

Short Description

Documentary filmmaker Orlando Bagwell (1951 - ) made Peabody Award-winning films; served as a staff producer for the PBS weekly program, Frontline; produced a documentary on the Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr.’s presidential campaign, "Running with Jesse," in 1988; and served as the executive producer for the not-for-profit WGBH Educational Foundation.

Employment

United South End Settlements

WGBH-TV

WNET-TV

WETA-TV

Blackside, Inc.

Ford Foundation

WGBH TV

Harriet Tubman House

Blackside Productions

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Orlando Bagwell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Orlando Bagwell remembers St. Clair Bourne

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Orlando Bagwell lists his favorites

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Orlando Bagwell describes his mother's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Orlando Bagwell describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Orlando Bagwell describes his maternal great-grandmother and great-aunts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Orlando Bagwell remembers his extended family members

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Orlando Bagwell describes his community in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Orlando Bagwell talks about his parents' return to college, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Orlando Bagwell talks about his parents' return to college, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Orlando Bagwell describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Orlando Bagwell describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Orlando Bagwell remembers his daily activities in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Orlando Bagwell describes the Blessed Sacrament School in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Orlando Bagwell recalls his teachers at the Blessed Sacrament School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Orlando Bagwell remembers the holidays with his family

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Orlando Bagwell describes his religious upbringing

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Orlando Bagwell remembers his early aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Orlando Bagwell describes the Civil Rights Movement in Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Orlando Bagwell describes the Wilson Park neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Orlando Bagwell talks about the political climate of his neighborhood

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Orlando Bagwell reflects upon attitudes in the black community during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Orlando Bagwell recalls the television and radio shows of his youth

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Orlando Bagwell describes his involvement in neighborhood sports leagues

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Orlando Bagwell recalls moving to Nashua, New Hampshire

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Orlando Bagwell remembers Nashua High School in Nashua, New Hampshire

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Orlando Bagwell describes his decision to attend Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Orlando Bagwell remembers his high school guidance counselor

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Orlando Bagwell describes his religious involvement in Nashua, New Hampshire

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Orlando Bagwell remembers Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Orlando Bagwell describes his decision to pursue a career in film

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Orlando Bagwell talks about civil rights leaders

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Orlando Bagwell remembers the film program at Boston University

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Orlando Bagwell describes his role at the United South End Settlements in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Orlando Bagwell recalls teaching film at the United South End Settlements

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Orlando Bagwell describes his coursework at Boston University

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Orlando Bagwell recalls working with PBS and WGBH-TV in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Orlando Bagwell describes his independent films

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Orlando Bagwell remembers pledging Omega Psi Phi Fraternity

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Orlando Bagwell remembers his aspiration to become a filmmaker

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Orlando Bagwell reflects upon his career

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Orlando Bagwell reflects upon his work at the Ford Foundation

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

10$3

DATitle
Orlando Bagwell describes his decision to pursue a career in film
Orlando Bagwell describes his role at the United South End Settlements in Boston, Massachusetts
Transcript
I took my second semester, sophomore year, and I took off. And I think it was also that I was feeling that school wasn't--I couldn't make it connect with what I, I couldn't make it make sense or have a relevancy to me. And that was a tough year because I was, you know, kind of floating. I had an idea I was gonna work, you know, travel, and my sister and I were living together, and I was working and I lost my job. And, you know, it's just wasn't--trying to live in an apartment too and living in Boston [Massachusetts]. And my parents [Barbara Jones Bagwell and Donald Bagwell, Sr.], when I left school, they decided they weren't gonna pay anymore for me. So if I wanted to get back to school, I had to do it on my own. And, and it was the summer of the semester, and then the summer. And that summer, I had hooked up with this place [United South End Settlements, Boston, Massachusetts] and had, through a girlfriend, and said that I was gonna work at this camp for the summer. And it was with this Harriet Tubman House [Boston, Massachusetts] that was a community center in the South End of Boston. And that was a breakthrough for me because suddenly I was, I was with young people and what I believed in and everything. So I could make work and make sense, you know, on a work level. And so I started working there, and I decided I was gonna get myself back in school, and I had been--I had bought a still camera and had been taking pictures and doing some slide shows and things like that. And one of my, and my roommate in freshman year was in the school of communications [Boston University College of Communication, Boston, Massachusetts] and was in film school. And, not in the film school, the school of communications, and he said to me--and I had always worked with films in high school, teaching, using them for teaching things, for teaching with my CYO work, Catholic Youth Organization work, and had brought, done a presentation in my sociology class with films about conditions in schools in urban areas. And my friend said, you really under--you really seem to know something about movies, and when you talk about them, and I really didn't know that and feel that way because I didn't really go to movies and stuff, you know. But he got my attention, and I decided I'd try and get back in school in the film school, which was a very small program in the communications school. I think they had like ten students, and I got in.$How soon do you start working with children after school in film?$$Well, that happened immediately actually 'cause it was a funny thing. I came out of that summer as a counselor, and the center asked me to come back and work with their after-school program. And I started working there, and no sooner had I gotten there, that the woman who was running it quit. And they offered me a full-time job running the program, which meant that I would work most of my hours in the evening. But I would, the days when I didn't have classes at school [Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts], I would spend my after- my days there, you know, working through the planning and the preparation and the, you know, just all the things to kind of set up the program. And it was really working in a center that really didn't have a lot of programs coming out of it. But what had happened is, once they gave me the job to run the after-school program, it didn't have a lot of kids coming to it either. But when they asked me to do it, I noticed that there is a lot of new housing projects that were built by the church in the neighborhood--there was a church on the corner, and they built a lot of low-income housing on Columbus Avenue. And I started recruiting from those homes. And then I, I petitioned for a little bit of money from the settlement house organization [United South End Settlements, Boston, Massachusetts] that ran this particular house [Harriet Tubman House, Boston, Massachusetts], and we renovated the house. And, you know, sanded and cleaned all the floors repainted the whole place and fixed it up so that somebody would want to come and be there and upgraded our offices and we started recruiting kids in and started bringing in a whole group of new kids. And suddenly the place was full of kids and teenagers. And we started a teen program too, and we then built a stage down on the corner and, you know, and started working and built, transformed a lot of the lots that were empty there into playgrounds and stuff like that, and started turning it into a new place. And then I started, I worked through the schools to get, to work with all the different schools in the area to kind of work with them to get our statuses up as an employer of work-study students, so I could recruit students in work-study programs. And I started building a cadre of teachers who were doing after school classrooms, teaching in math and reading and then other kinds of arts and other kinds of things. And then I taught a, I built a dark room on the top floor and taught photography and started doing a video class there.