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African-American Documentary Films on DVD in the Leavey Library: Social Conditions

Social Conditions

Black American Gothic: Planting Urban Roots in Iowa
"Profiling a region in transition this documentary examines the exodus of black people from the inner-city, tracking folks from Chicago as they migrate west to small-town Iowa City, where they struggle to establish roots. Echoing the early 20th-century Great Migration of blacks from southern states to the Northeast and Midwest, this new migration is also about family-friendly housing, jobs, and the search for a better life. Iowa City is a self-identified peaceful community with residents now compelled to redefine themselves in terms of race, class, and the urban/rural divide."

Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans
"Long ago during slavery, Faubourg Tremé was home to the largest community of free black people in the Deep South and a hotbed of political ferment. Here black and white, free and enslaved, rich and poor co-habitated, collaborated, and clashed to create much of what defines New Orleans culture up to the present day. Founded as a suburb (or faubourg in French) of the original colonial city, the neighborhood developed during French rule and many families like the Trevignes kept speaking French as their first language until the late 1960s. Tremé was the home of the Tribune, the first black daily newspaper in the US. During Reconstruction, activists from Tremé pushed for equal treatment under the law and for integration. And after Reconstruction's defeat, a 'Citizens Committee' legally challenged the resegregation of public transportation resulting in the infamous Plessy vs.Ferfuson Supreme Court case. New Orlean's Times Picayune columnist Lolis Eric Elie bought a historic house in Tremé in the 1990s when the area was struggling to recover from the crack epidemic. Rather than flee the blighted inner city, Elie begins renovating his dilapidated home and in the process becomes obsessed with the area's mysterious and neglected past. Shot largely before Hurricane Katrina and edited afterwards, the film is both celebratory and elegiac in tone."

Inner City Vs. Suburban Schools
"The predominantly black and Hispanic children in inner city schools are not receiving the same quality of education as children in suburban white schools. This program depicts outraged parents as well as an outraged educator, Jonathan Kozol, who says that America's educational system is savagely unequal and discriminatory."

July '64
"In the summer of 1964, a three-night riot erupted in two predominantly black neighborhoods in downtown Rochester, New York--the culmination of decades of poverty, joblessness and racial discrimination and a significant event in the Civil Rights era. Using archival footage and interviews with those who were present, the film explores the genesis and outcome of these three nights."

Living Thinkers: An Autobiography of Black Women in the Ivory Tower
"...examines the intersection of race, class and gender for Black women professors and administrators working in U.S. colleges and universities today. Through their diverse narratives, from girlhood to the present, Black women from different disciplines share experiences that have shaped them, including segregated schooling as children, and the trials, disappointments and triumphs encountered in Academia. Though more than 100 years have passed since the doors to higher education opened for Black women, their numbers as faculty members are woefully low and for many still, the image of Black women as intellectuals is incomprehensible. And while overtly expressed racism, sexism and discrimination have declined, their presence is often still often unacknowledged. Through frank and sometimes humorous conversations, this documentary interrogates notions of education for girls and women and the stereotypes and traditions that affect the status of Black women both in and out of the Academy. A perfect companion film for any classroom discussion on the intersection of racism, sexism and/or feminism."

Remedy for Riot
"In this news program from 1968, Harry Reasoner reports on the findings and recommendations of President Johnson's National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. The commission's report offered an analysis of the causes of riots at that time and concluded that unless sweeping changes were made, the nation was moving towards two separate societies, black and white, separate but unequal. By interviewing business, political, religious and community leaders in Detroit, one of the cities hit hardest by turmoil, the program assesses possible courses of action in four major areas: jobs, housing, schools and welfare."

Trouble the Water
"Aspiring New Orleans-based rapper Kimberly Rivers Roberts (a.k.a.: Black Kold Madina) films her experiences in the 9th Ward the day before, during & in the two years after Hurricane Katrina."

True Colors
"Follows two college educated men in their mid-thirties, one black, one white, as they involve themselves in a variety of everyday situations in St. Louis, Missouri, to test levels of prejudice based on skin colors."

The Throwaways
"Tells the story of homeless filmmaker, activist and co-director Ira McKinley, who channels his experience of living on the streets through the lens of a video camera. By using his unique perspective, Ira aims to pull the curtain back for viewers and expose how the current economic crisis is having a devastating effect on those who are in greatest need. A gritty, firsthand look at a reality most would rather turn away from, THE THROWAWAYS challenges viewers to bear witness and confront the daily struggles and hopes of those living on the fringes of a society that has rejected and forgotten them."

The Two Nations of Black America
"There is a growing economic divide in black America. Today, America's black middle class is the largest in its history, yet roughly one-third of black America continues to live in poverty. This film measures the economic and social success of the civil rights movement and the gap between middle class and poor African-Americans through interviews with noted Afro-Americans and historical film footage."

Watts, Riot or Revolt?
"Were the Watts riots part of a social revolution, a festering illness or a carnival of senseless violence? And why did it first erupt in L.A. and not in another major American city? This news program, filmed just a few months after the riots, presents a study of the principal events that ignited the conflagration in the summer of 1965 in Watts. A wide variety of individuals comment on the situtation, including L.A. chief of police William H. Parker, Daniel P. Moynihan, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., witnesses to the riots and rioters themselves."  - Container