The Legacies of Black Public Television: Films from the Black Journal and The 1980s Black Film and Video Workshops

Ufuoma Essi

May 18, 2024, 6pm
Géza, 306 Maujer
The Legacies of Black Public Television is a series of screenings examining the histories of Black public television in the US and UK. Organized by artist Ufuoma Essi as part of her research residency at Amant, the program looks at two distinct historical periods of Black filmmaking when radical programming and new commissioning created new forms of representation by African American and Black British filmmakers that challenged hegemonic narratives.
The Black Journal (1968 and 1977) was the first nationally televised public affairs program produced for, about, and by African Americans in the US. Black Journal was developed in response to the Kerner Commission (1967), a government-funded investigation detailing the racial injustices that led to over 150 riots throughout the US in 1967. The Kerner Commission report identified unjust policing, the oppressive justice system, inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression, and other systemic and structural racist practices that were at the root of the riots. Broadcasted monthly, the Black Journal featured American documentary filmmaker William Greaves, who was the series’ producer, director, and occasional host until 1971. Greaves reported on different aspects of the Civil Rights period, such as the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the US government’s secret campaign against the Black Panther Party, and labor struggles from Mississippi to New York, to name a few.

By comparison, in the UK, the early 1980s gave rise to the Black Filmmakers Workshop, which developed in response to political upheaval. Channel 4, the British public service TV network, and the Greater London Council funded several filmmaking workshops aimed at providing support for underrecognized artists and alternatives to the dominant modes of representation in the UK media. Among these were commissioned films from filmmaking collectives and workshops such as Black Audio Film Collective, Sankofa Film and Video Collective, and Ceddo Film and Video Workshop.

This screening program at Amant will include episodes from Black Journal and films made during the Black Film and Video Workshop and will examine their respective legacies. A reception will follow the screening.