Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness

Director: Llewellyn Smith
Country: USA
Year: 2006
Running Time: 57 min
Language: English


Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness asks how a white American of Jewish ancestry, barely a generation removed from Central Europe, acquired the power to re-make the historical understanding of black people. The 20th century anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits re-defined black history and black people, making it possible for a people formerly despised as “Negroes” to pride themselves as African-Americans.  Bringing rarely seen archival footage together with witty animation, photo re-enactments and with interviews from leading scholars of race and culture, Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness delves into the historical and ongoing struggle over who has the power to understand and ascribe meaning to their own cultural identity, and who does not.

About the Director

Llewellyn Smith

llewsmithBiography: Smith is the president of Vital Pictures, Inc. As a writer/producer, he has contributed to several PBS series as series editor for the PBS history series American Experience. He played a key role in the origination, development, and acquisition of more than 70 programs on American history. Smith was project director for the Peabody and Emmy award-winning series Africans In America: America’s Journey Through Slavery. He directed the final film in the series Judgment Day. For the PBS series RACE: The Power Of An Illusion, Smith produced the episode The House We Live In. Smith was a producer/director for the three-hour special Reconstruction: The Second Civil War. He was also producer/director for Forgotten Genius, the NOVA biography of Dr. Percy Julian, the pioneering industrial chemist and civil rights activist. Forgotten Genius was recently honored for broadcast excellence by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Smith was also co-executive producer for the PBS series Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?

Films Shown in AFF, Inc. Programs:
Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness (2010).

Africans in America: Judgment Day (2003);
Race: The Power of an Illusion, Episode 3 – The House We Live In (2003);
Adrift: Lost on the Road of Expectations (2003);
Forgotten Genius (2007);
Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness (2009);
Rebel: Loreta Velazquez, Secret Soldier of the American Civil War (2013).