Thursday, May 20, 2010

Eyes on Henry Hampton

For the past several weeks I've been making my way through all fourteen hours of Eyes on the Prize, the two-part documentary series on the Civil Rights Movement which aired on PBS in 1987 and 1990.

I've been watching it as background for an African American Voices course I'm teaching in the fall, and I'm excited about using parts of it in class.

I'm especially enthusiastic about it because the series was created and produced by Henry Hampton (1940-1998), a graduate of the school where I teach.

Looking back at a 1995 Talk of the Town piece about Hampton in the New Yorker, I came across a couple of interesting bits:

Life has done its best to foster some resentment in Hampton but, apparently, without success. A black man, he was born in St. Louis in 1940, when it was still under the thumb of Jim Crow. Hampton's father was a successful doctor, but the family wasn't welcome at restaurants or movie theaters in the white part of town.

Hampton contracted polio when he was fifteen and was in a wheelchair for three years. Nevertheless, he focuses on happier memories from that period, ones that include a sweet memory from his high school:

What he recalls from that time, though, is the friends at his virtually all-white parochial school who carried him up the steps to physics lab, and the red Thunderbird his father bought him.

No comments: