This is a fantastic collection of seven strong black history films that all showcase a different angle of the African-American cultural experience. The dates of the films range from 1930-1967.
From Dreams to Reality – A Tribute to Minority Inventors
Length: 27 Minutes
“From Dreams to Reality – A Tribute to Minority Inventors,” highlights the inventions of African American and women inventors. Ossie Davis hosts the documentary, focusing on the inventions, but also showing the patent office’s job of recording inventions for the future.
Plantation System in Southern Life
Length: 10 Minutes
This astonishing historical film educates the audience about the old plantation system in the South, but does so in a revealing way that exposes the racist attitudes and the remnants of slavery in the South. At the beginning of the film, a white family takes one of many available old plantation tours and learns about the layout of the plantation, including the main house, the surrounding fields, and the slave quarters where blacksmiths, carpenters, and field hands worked and lived. The echoes of slavery are ever present, as these were certain slave plantations during black slavery. After viewing the old plantation house, the tourists go around the countryside by car, observing the South in the 1950s. The footage captures images of black tenet farmers working in the cotton fields and at their houses which differ little from the old slave quarters. This demonstrates how southern segregation had hardly ceased. In the end, a group of well-dressed whites are shown at an outdoor party, while the narrator says, Today, if we visit a social gathering in the South, well see some of these things. The gentle manners and courtesy. The separation of society into distinct groups. And the relationship of that society to the land, which supplies its wealth. These are some of the things the plantation system has contributed to Southern life. This is a fascinating and absorbing film due to its antiquated position on African American slavery and slave plantation homes.
Negro Colleges In Wartime
Length: 8 Minutes
An incredible historical film! Negro Colleges in Wartime is a vintage video that reveals the World War II American perspective on racism, patriotism, sense of progress, as well as a precious look at African American culture and work. This is rare footage, given the commonly harsh or nonexistent treatment that men and women of color received at this point in American history. In a show of reprehensible deception, the film explains how important black people are to the nation – as long as theres a war on for them to die in. Still, the film discusses African Americans as intelligent and shows them at work in skilled labor. The film is a military service recruiting piece, but the viewer can now be treated to rarely seen images of black people at college and in respectable employment. Also shown are the famed Tuskegee Airmen – the first black pilots who served honorably in World War II. Negro Colleges in Wartime is a prime example of the despicable two-faced rhetoric used by the government, as well as a priceless snapshot of African American culture in the 40s.
With No One to Help Us
Length: 19 Minutes
This straightforward, unembellished documentary captures the struggle of Newark welfare mothers to form a buying club in response to store markups on food prices for welfare recipients. The film shows the meetings and discussions the women took part in to get the club started. They faced resistance from all sides: store owners, wholesalers, government officials, and even potential members. In one scene, a group of the all-black club members enter a warehouse staffed by all white men. This scene, more than any other in the film, shows the tensions and fear with which the women struggled. In the end, they succeed in forming their club, and the film ends on a somewhat false note of hope that no children in the future will need to live in poverty. Despite the tacked-on ending, this film is an important documentation of the brave struggle of the poor women living in the Newark project against the racial, financial, and social obstacles in their way.
Length: 17 Minutes
A stark documentary about black culture in the 1970s, Teddy is one of the finest vintage films of its kind. Heartfelt and genuine, the star of the film is young Teddy who takes viewers into the mind of an African American during this turbulent period in American history. A level headed, straight up young man, Teddy considers many different viewpoints found in the United States: from the Black Panthers, to marijuana use, to Mao Zedongs writings. This film captures the essence of black life at a confusing and broadening point in American history. Teddy is superb.
Length: 23 Minutes
Palmour Street celebrates African-American culture, childhood, and growing up in fifties. Located in the southern town of Gainesville, Georgia, Palmour Street is a typical southern town. The mother and father treat their children with love and raise them to be self-sufficient individuals. As her son helps his mother shell peas, he is already learning how to help around the house and to be responsible. Even when her patience runs thin with so many children to care for, the mother remembers to encourage rather than discourage. A great cultural look at fifties American family values, this is a sweet story about the importance of a healthy household. This film stands apart from 99% of the educational film productions involving African-Americans in the mid-1950s because it portrays an African-American family that lives a normal life, and the film itself lacks the typical racist narration and stereotypical scenarios of its era.
We Work Again
Length: 11 Minutes
Out of the bread line and into the line of work for the American people! We Work Again is the hopeful tale of life after the horrible Depression. Security was replenished as the government offered unskilled laborers jobs that would place food on their long-empty tables. New additions such as swimming pools and playgrounds were made to the projects of Harlem, as well as newer apartment buildings. The film portrays how delighted children are to have a safe environment to play in, especially in juxtaposition to the gloomy days during the Great Depression. We Work Again shows how America’s poor gained life-saving opportunities due to the WPA’s (Works Project Administration) economic improvements.
Farmer Henry Browne
Length: 11 Minutes
Here, take a close look at the life of an African-American farmer. Henry Browne is named the soldier of his farmland–just like there are soldiers overseas–and he is needed to help in the war effort. This humbling film follows a day in the life of this hard-working man, his wife, and their children. The family’s days consist of rising at the break of dawn and laboring consistently all day. Their crops will provide just enough food for all four of them to eat heartily for this season and the next. Farmer Henry Browne is an attentive story that sheds light on one of many families who had to work together to be profitable, and, who, in doing so gained a peaceful life.