Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Producing a Black History Documentary

Have you ever thought about producing a documentary ? Often referred to as a life-story, a documentary is a true account about an era, person or persons, company, city, country, etc that is factual. One of the major challenges for the documentary maker is research and gathering of facts. But having as much accurate information as possible is key to the overall integrity of the production.

From the production stand point, and especially when interviewing people, it's important to utilize proper lighting and the use of high quality microphones (preferably a lapel or lavalier).

A few years ago we had the opportunity to produce a black-history documentaries about an all-black school and African-American educator from south Texas - Eugene Daule. Professor Daule, as he was commonly called, served as principal of an all-black school in Cuero (DeWitt County), Texas in the early twentieth century. The school was originally called Cuero Colored School and was later named Daule Colored School in honor of the educator.

Several months of historical research and personal interviews in Texas, California and Louisiana (Daule's birth place) provided a great deal of information about the African-American educator and the many obstacles that people of color had to overcome during that period. After several dozen interviews with ex-students, ex-faculty members and community residents, we discovered that despite the obvious impediments and racism - some of the greatest minds of the 20th century matriculated from segregated institutions.

Much like its places of worship, the all-black school served as a source of community pride and unity for African-Americans. And an overwhelming consonance among those who were interviewed indicate that segregation, despite its much-intended oppressive and appalling nature, had one positive consequence - it united a people during one this nation's darkest periods (from slavery through emancipation, reconstruction and the civil rights era).

Many of the ex-students and teachers who were interviewed for the wild documentary felt that the closing of mostly all-black schools and the forced-busing of African-American students to previously-segregated all-white schools - in retrospect - and despite its good intentions - left the African-American community with a void from which it will never recover.