The New Yorker Videos

An Unseen Body of Work Shows a Different Side of Black Power

The work of James E. Hinton focuses on the community-oriented elements of the civil-rights and Black Power movements.

Released on 9/24/2020

Transcript

00:00
[audio logo]
00:03
[gentle drum music]
00:16
[camera click]
00:17
[Jill Lepore] When I heard about
00:18
the James Hinton photograph and film collection,
00:21
I was kind of staggered that it existed
00:24
and how little of it has in fact been seen.
00:27
James Hinton, a filmmaker in the 1960s
00:29
was trying to capture that moment,
00:31
and to capture it in a way
00:33
that wasn't being captured by network television.
00:37
[Mercedes Hinton] My dad, he felt that the 1960s
00:40
was a very important historical moment
00:42
in our country's history,
00:43
and I think he very much wanted
00:45
to document the movement,
00:49
I think from his own perspective.
00:51
[clicking]
00:56
[chanting song]
01:08
[film reel spinning]
01:09
[quiet flute music]
01:12
[chanting in foreign language]
01:23
[Amiri Baraka] Organization is the highest
01:24
and most elemental tenor of what we need.
01:28
A nation is organization at its highest,
01:31
most developed level.
01:33
We are in charge of building a nation.
01:37
[Elizabeth Hinton] This film captures
01:39
Amiri Baraka's Black Political Convention Movement.
01:42
This is a moment when, especially in Northern cities,
01:47
the Black Power movement is really taking a hold
01:49
and at that time Leroy Jones,
01:51
but later Amiri Baraka,
01:53
is part of this cultural nationalist strain in Newark.
01:56
[Amiri Baraka] They will force change.
02:00
They are change.
02:01
[crowd cheering and whistling]
02:05
[Elizabeth Hinton] The movement itself
02:06
was guided by this principle of self determination
02:08
that the strategy to realize that
02:11
is really rooted in ideas about Black pride;
02:13
A real, kind of, return to ideas about African identity:
02:18
that Black people, you know, should have the right
02:20
to control over their own institutions and their lives.
02:24
[Amiri Baraka] This is the midst
02:25
of the political campaign:
02:27
The year of the Panther.
02:28
We are spreading Black consciousness
02:31
in a city where Black is more than 65%
02:33
so that Black people will soon be able
02:36
to govern themselves again.
02:39
[drum music]
02:48
[Woman] Community Black school!
02:51
Community Black school!
02:53
[Amiri Baraka] New schools with new programs:
02:56
Black programs.
02:59
[Teacher] Are you ready?
03:00
[Students] Black people always ready.
03:02
That's right, teach.
03:05
[Student] I will now say the pledge.
03:07
[Students] I am Black! I am Black-
03:09
Teach. - I am strong, I am strong!
03:11
[Elizabeth Hinton] I love how she keeps saying, teach.
03:14
You know, it's a reciprocal thing, right?
03:16
And, of course, that scene is a kind of window
03:18
into the larger Black Independent School movement
03:21
that is centered around ideas of Black cultural pride.
03:27
[Teacher] Okay, now we're going to go
03:28
right into our Black alphabet.
03:30
Now, what is it that all Black people need in White America?
03:32
Awareness.
03:34
[Teacher] That's right, to be what?
03:35
Black! - Right!
03:36
[Narrator] Looking at the Black Lives Matter movement,
03:38
while wholly sympathetic with it,
03:39
a lot of white Americans are sort of like, But why?
03:42
Like, I thought this was kind of over,
03:43
and these films fill in those years,
03:46
they kind of fill in, what I think,
03:48
for mainstream America, has largely been unseen.
03:51
Offers the visual evidence:
03:53
No, this is why, this is why.
03:55
And Black people do not have this in White America,
03:58
what is that? - Justice!
04:00
Teach! And all the little brothers are what?
04:01
[Students] Kings!
04:02
That's right. In fact-
04:03
[Elizabeth Hinton] The decision to,
04:04
rather than invest in organizations and institutions,
04:07
build a vibrant school where children, for generations,
04:11
could have been taught the Black alphabet, right?
04:14
That doesn't happen and instead the investment
04:16
comes in the form of policing, and surveillance,
04:19
and incarceration programs.
04:20
[Mercedes Hinton] My dad, he had this sense that,
04:23
you know, that history is often very much affected
04:26
by who's telling it.
04:29
I think he wanted the Black community
04:31
to, I guess, to free themselves from that negative gaze.
04:35
In the words of a Ghanaian proverb,
04:38
knowledge is like a garden,
04:40
if it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested.
04:43
[Students] Mhmm.
04:44
[Elizabeth Hinton] One of the things
04:44
that I was really struck by
04:46
are his images of ordinary people during this moment.
04:50
You know, children playing and just the joy of childhood,
04:52
and the joy and energy of of the movement that,
04:55
in many ways, gets left out
04:58
of our understandings of this period.
05:01
Black is beautiful! Black is beautiful!
05:05
Black is beautiful!
05:07
[Mercedes Hinton] The snow gladiators, as sis said it,
05:09
I mean, we have it hanging in our house.
05:11
It's just a beautiful photograph.
05:13
Black life, in general,
05:14
I think he was trying to document both the beauty,
05:18
and the culture, and the traditions.
05:20
Political mobilization and all that.
05:22
[Jazz music]
05:24
Who are you, listening to me?
05:28
Who are you, listening to yourself?
05:31
Are you White or Black?
05:32
What does that have anything to do with?
05:34
[Narrator] One of the things
05:36
that's so wonderful about Hinton's films
05:39
is that they give us this, like, really important window
05:43
into what organizing looks like.
05:45
For me, as a scholar of many organizations in this movement,
05:49
like, you can't- the archive doesn't capture
05:51
what these kinds of discussions felt like,
05:54
especially in this era.
05:55
We think you'll have the Black people of this community
05:59
organized throughout the city,
06:01
and I think it's a great thing
06:02
that we are able to get the youth mobilized.
06:08
[Narrator] Americans have the idea
06:09
that, you know, there was a still quiet pond
06:12
and out of it, you know, rose, like,
06:14
a giant Martin Luther King to lead his people,
06:16
but the actual movement was all the millions of people
06:19
who getting up out of bed in the morning
06:21
and trying to go to vote year, after year,
06:23
after year.
06:24
[Elizabeth Hinton] And there's a real critique
06:25
of capitalism in that, that Black Americans,
06:27
and this goes back to ideas that were-
06:30
that had kind of steered the communist party in the 1930s,
06:33
but Black Americans are at the vanguard of a revolution.
06:37
In the vanguard of something that people haven't
06:40
yet [Unintelligible] get that. The American, the American.
06:44
The second part of the 20Th century of the Black man.
06:49
[chanting]
06:54
[Narrator] We look back at the Black Power movement.
06:56
We look back at this activism and it's really hard for us to
06:58
understand that people like Maulana Karenga and,
07:01
and people like Amiri Baraka really believed that this kind
07:05
of fundamental change was going to come.
07:07
[Elizabeth Hinton] These films capture really powerfully
07:10
the ways in which these forces of inequality
07:14
and the unfinished legacies of
07:16
the Civil Rights Movement continue to shape American society
07:20
and continue to structure fights for social justice.
07:25
Even the Black parliament is still conflicted
07:29
and deduce that it does not truly reflect
07:32
our character or nature.
07:34
[camera shutter click]
07:35
[Mercedes Hinton] Dad. He just had so much stuff
07:38
down in the basement and in terms
07:39
of his photography and the films.
07:42
I have only really begun to see them recently.
07:46
[Narrator] There's so much in archives
07:48
that people haven't seen.
07:49
I always feel as a historian,
07:50
all the good stuff is the stuff in boxes
07:53
that haven't been opened before.
07:55
The whole world should be looking at this.
07:56
It's just, just hits me, like, deep my gut as a historian.
08:01
[Mercedes Hinton] You know, the reactions that would come
08:03
when people saw, you know, these images,
08:06
You know, we had the sense that dad was right.
08:08
You know, these things are historically significant
08:10
and needed to be saved, you know?