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Butch Lewis Video Collection Documenting Civil Rights Era, Hartford

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The videos in this collection are from the personal collection of Charles “Butch” Lewis (1944-2015), co-founder of the Hartford chapter of the Black Panther Party. Lewis believed it was imperative that his collection be made accessible to the public, and ensured that commitment through his donation of the videos to the Hartford Public Library.

This collection includes African American, West Indian American, Puerto Rican, and white American voices from the North End, South End, and Downtown communities of Hartford in 1969, providing rich information about a moment immediately following three consecutive summers of riots in Hartford. Discussion topics include Hartford’s riot of 1969, housing, employment, education, police community relations, politics, and urban renewal projects.

The videos were produced by a team of Canadian filmmakers, including director Julian Biggs and cameraman, Baylis Glascock, a UCLA student originally from Missouri. They were commissioned by the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to conduct a social documentary process called the Fogo method in Hartford in 1969. The method was developed as part of the Canadian National Film Board’s ‘Challenge for Change’ initiative, which began in 1966. Named after the first place in which it was conducted, Fogo Island in Newfoundland, the method entails that the filmmakers film and interview various individuals and groups of a place that is experiencing issues around communication. The footage is then shown to people who would not normally be in the same room together and their reactions would be filmed. They would then find a way to come together to have a conversation and ideally create an action plan to deal with issues that arose. This process was not completed in Hartford, as Biggs, the director of the project, fell victim to a terminal illness. Although the project was passed on to an advisor, Verna Fields, there was a change in administration, with Richard Nixon becoming president and Donald Rumsfeld becoming the head of OEO. Rumsfeld suspended all in-progress Fogo method projects.

Citations:

McFarland, Stephen (2005). Watching Our Words: The Use of Film and Video in Participatory Planning. (Unpublished masters thesis). Cornell University, Ithaca.
Crocker, Stephen (2003). The Fogo Process: Participatory Communication in a Globalizing World. In Shirley White (ed.), Participatory Video: Images that Transform and Empower (pp. 122-145). New Delhi: Sage Publications.