“Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness” will air nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Maggie Gyllenhaal, on Tuesday, February 2, 10:30 pm. 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 as well as the Best Documentary Award at the Hollywood Black Film Festival, and was also screened for an enthusaistic audience at the AAA Annual Meeting this month (followed by a Q&A with Drs. Baker and Cole).