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‘Take This Hammer’: Classic 1963 film of James Baldwin touring the hoods of San Francisco

February 22, 2011

by San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive

James Baldwin talks with young Black men in San Francisco. One of them tells him, “They talk about the South. The South is not half as bad as San Francisco. … The white man, he’s not taking advantage of you out in public like they doing down in Birmingham. But … when you go look for a job, can you get a job?” – Video frame: KQED
KQED’s mobile film unit 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 Executive Director Orville Luster and is intent on discovering “the real situation of Negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present.”

He declares: “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.”

These videos include frank exchanges with local people on the street, meetings with community leaders and extended point-of-view sequences shot from a moving vehicle, featuring the Bayview Hunters Point and Fillmore/Western Addition neighborhoods.

Baldwin reflects on the racial inequality that African-Americans are forced to confront and at one point tries to lift the morale of a young man by expressing his conviction that “there will be a Negro president of this country. But it will not be the country that we are sitting in now.”

“Take This Hammer,” directed by Richard Moore, was originally produced by KQED for National Educational Television (NET), the predecessor of WNET, and first aired in 1964. The copyright is held by WNET.ORG Properties LLC. All rights reserved. WNET.org is the premier public media provider of the New York metropolitan area and parent of public television stations WNET and WLIW.

This film was added in 2010 to San Francisco State University’s San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive, where this note appears: “The TV Archive would like to thank Darryl Cox for championing the merits of this film and for his determination that it be preserved and remastered for posterity.”

Take This Hammer from Brendan Nee on Vimeo.

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