Did you miss the AAA Annual Meeting screening of Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness? Want to share the film with your colleagues and students? This week, the documentary is airing nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Check your local TV listings.
The film examines the life and career of Melville J. Herskovits (1895-1963), the controversial anthropologist who established the African Studies Center at Northwestern and wrote the groundbreaking The Myth of the Negro Past. It asks, “Who has the authority to define a culture, especially when people from that culture are denied the opportunity to engage in the scholarly discourse of defining themselves?”
The film, by Llewellyn Smith, Christine Herbes-Sommers and Vincent Brown, features compelling interviews with scholars such as Lee D Baker (Duke U and a member of AAA’s Executive Board), Johnnetta Cole (Smithsonian and AAA’s 2008 Distinguished Speaker), and Gelya Frank (USC). It was recently honored with the American Historical Association’s John E. O’Connor Film Award and the Best Documentary Award at the Hollywood Black Film Festival; the Kino-Eye Film blog has also named it one of the top 35 documentaries of the decade.