Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lost Documentary on James Baldwin's Visit to San Francisco: Take This Hammer (1963)

There's a recently uncovered PBS documentary on James Baldwin's 1963 visit to San Francisco.  Watch the entire thing online

From Kenyon Farrow:

Take This Hammer, follows author and activist James Baldwin in the spring of 1963, as he’s driven around San Francisco to meet with members of the local African-American community. He is escorted by Youth For Service’s Executive Director Orville Luster and intent on discovering: “The real situation of Negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present.”

Money quote: "There is no moral distance … between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. Someone’s got to tell it like it is. And that’s where it’s at.”

For me, the most interesting part of this documentary wasn't necessarily Baldwin's astute observations or the frank conversations he has with Black residents of the Fillmore and Bayview. It's seeing the fruits of San Francisco urban renewal come into form. Baldwin tours the Fillmore, where some of the 'hoods most notorious projects are in the middle of construction. Crazy to see the despair on people's faces even before they were built; crazier still to see anyone refer to a newly-minted OCP as "marvelous on the outside."

Photos from the film:

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