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Interview: Producer Charles Hobson on “Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant”

Thursday, February 26th, 2009
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Forty years ago, the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn was one of the largest and most dynamic African-American communities in the country – 400,000 people made their home within its three square miles. But Bed-Stuy became synonymous with crime and poverty when the mainstream media focused on urban unrest during the ’60s. One television show decided to change all that.

Charles Hobson was a producer for WBAI radio when he was approached to produce a news program about Bedford-Stuyvesant. Robert F. Kennedy conceived a television series that would show the ‘real’ Bed-Stuy -– a neighborhood of working families, students, artists and professionals. “Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant” came to New York’s airwaves in 1968.

On “Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant”, Charles Hobson captured his neighborhood in black and white — local celebrities, activists, musicians, and regular residents all made appearances on the weekly show. The program ran for two years, and Hobson moved on to produce shows like “Black Journal” and “Like It Is”.

Watch Hobson Interview (7:45)

Watch excerpts from the two-year run of Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant:

* Interview with Actor/Musician/Activist Harry Belafonte
* Interview with Community Welfare Activists
* Interview with Author Julius Lester
* Interview with Boys High seniors
* Interview with NY Philharmonic violinist Sanford Allen
* The Leroi Jones Young Spirit House Movers performance

Today, Charles Hobson works at Thirteen as a producer on Great Performances. His next project is “Harlem in Montmartre”, a 90-minute performance documentary, telling the compelling story of the impact of the American jazz age on Paris between the great wars, exploring a fascinating yet often neglected era of African-American cultural history. PBS Engage recently interviewed Hobson about his old and new projects.

  • Chris Albertson

    I think Charles’ TV career began around 1965, when—as general manager of WBAI—I received a call from Channel 13. “We need to borrow one of your Negroes,” the caller said. They had H. Rap Brown lined up for an interview and he insisted on the interviewer being black. Charles had recently begun a weekly WBAI show (his first broadcasting experience), so I recommended him.

  • Sydney morales

    Hi I am first generation PR stated living in bed stuy in the early 50 , then it was mostly white with a few PR and what a west side story it was . I live there for nearly 19 years saw the end of the west side story and the beginning of the black bed stuy in the early 60 complete with all the gang members ,police riots ,the infamous black out of 69 . In the early 60 the whites had moved on but the poor PR stayed . I lived in the same apt building all those years attending kindergarten ,Catholics school and public high school all within waking distance .