"We did not choose particularly popular subjects. But we have to do it because without understanding the nature of history we are weakened in our approach in dealing with any current reality." -- Henry E. Hampton Jr.
Henry Hampton (1940-98) was a St. Louis native and 1961 graduate of Washington University. In 1968, he established his Boston-based company Blackside, Inc., which quickly became the largest African-American-owned film production company of its time. Hampton's works chronicle the 20th century's great political and social movements, focusing on the lives of the poor and disenfranchised.
Best known of Hampton's 60-plus major film and media projects was the 14-part series Eyes on the Prize which ran in primetime on PBS stations in the 1980's and 1990's. Twenty years after its release it is still considered the definitive work on the Civil Rights Movement. The series garnered international acclaim winning more than 20 major awards and attracting over 20 million viewers. The Boston Globe praised the series as "one of the most distinguished documentary series in the history of broadcasting." Those sentiments were echoed again when Eyes on the Prize was re-broadcast in the fall of 2006, attracting a new generation of viewers.
Hampton's other documentaries include The Great Depression (1993), Malcolm X: Make It Plain (1994), America's War on Poverty (1995), Breakthrough: The Changing Face of Science in America (1997), I'll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American Arts (1998); Hopes on the Horizon (1999) and This Far by Faith (2003).
Henry Hampton and his production company, Blackside, won many awards over the years, including a Peabody Award in Excellence in broadcast journalism, an episode of Eyes on the Prize II was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1988, and Episode Five and Six of Eyes II won Emmy Awards. Blackside also produced companion books for many of their films, and created educational outreach programs to help students learn about the Civil Rights Movement.
The materials used to create Blackside's films are now housed in a new film archive at WU's West Campus Library. The 35,000-plus items in the Henry Hampton Collection include film and videotape (570 hours of original footage and 730 hours of stock footage), photographs, scripts, storyboards, producers' notes, interviews, music, narration, posters, study guides, books and other materials.
Washington University Libraries will preserve and promote the Henry Hampton Collection for educational and scholarly use by students, faculty, and filmmakers as well as by institutions and individuals in the surrounding community and beyond.