"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." ~ James Baldwin
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

Henry Hampton

"Eyes on the Prize recounts the fight to end decades of discrimination and segregation. It is the story of the people -- young and old, male and female, northern and southern -- who, compelled by a meeting of conscience and circumstance, worked to eradicate a world where whites and blacks could not go to the same school, ride the same bus, vote in the same election, or participate equally insociety. It was a world in which peaceful demonstrators were met with resistance and brutality -- in short, a reality that is now nearly incomprehensible to many young Americans." ~ PBS

Filmmaker Henry Hampton was born August 19, 1940 in St. Louis. He graduated from Washington University where he majored in literature and pre-med, briefly attending medical school at McGill University in Montreal before settling in Boston.

While working as a cab driver, a chance meeting with Royal Cloud of the Unitarian Universalist Association led to a public relations job with the church, and two years later he became Director of Information. At the opening of the Film and Media Archive at Washington University, which contains Hampton's work, Bob Hohler said this about Hampton:
As a communications officer and as an activist, as a writer and editor, filmmaker and poet, interpreter and analyst, facilitator and conciliator Henry was in the middle of it all. Later, people would say to me that one of the striking things about Henry was his capacity to listen, to hear even in the silences. This is where he learned it. I think of this five-year period as the equivalent of Henry's doctoral program.
Hampton in Selma
While covering the Selma March and beating death of Unitarian pastor James Reeb, Hampton became aware of the role played by the media in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1968 he founded Blackside Productions, initially producing industrial training and government-sponsored films. He began working on the project that would become Eyes on the Prize in 1978, at first with Capitol City Communications. When Capitol City withdrew funding, he continued the project, eventually finding corporate sponsorship and distribution through PBS.

Eyes on the Prize won seven Emmys, numerous Peabody awards, and was nominated for an Oscar. It is part of the curriculum of 35% of the colleges in the United States, and has been seen by over 20 million viewers. Blackside has produced over 80 films, including Eyes on the Prize II and documentaries on Malcolm X, the depression and the War on Poverty. It is one of the largest minority-owned productions companies in the country.

Hampton died on lung cancer in Boston on April 22, 1998. He also served as Chairman of the Board of the Museum of Afro-American History and on the Board of the Children's Defense Fund. 
"Because history is fun when you really go back and begin picking it apart and making it yours. Everybody needs history but the people who need it most are poor folks--people without resources or options. Food might be more immediately important than history but if you don’t understand what’s been done to you--by your own people and the so-called "they"--you can never get around it." ~ Henry Hampton, Commencement Speech at Washington University, 1989

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