Debut Episode of Black Journal, 1968

THIRTEEN Staff | February 21, 2009

Lou House reports on The Carolina Times deciding to revert to \"colored\" as a valid term, 1968Running time: approximately 1 hour.

The Origin of Black Journal
From AL Perlmutter, the series’ first executive producer:

July 17, 1967 – Riots in Newark were sparked by the arrest and alleged abuse by police of a black cab driver. The riots continued for five days. National Educational Television (NET) immediately commissioned a documentary that would cover the uprisings and their causes. The production team rented a room in Newark’s Robert Treat Hotel to use as a base for the production and the crew began filming.

After two days, Al Perlmutter, executive producer of the project, noted that just about every other television news organization was also working on the Newark streets, chronicling the same story. On the third day, Perlmutter suggested to NET’s VP Bill Kobin that public television dig deeper and forego “coverage” in favor of providing black citizens in Newark – and nationally – with some responses to their complaints: that on TV and in the press blacks were usually the subjects only of breaking news, but not represented in other ways in the media. At the time, it was hard to find anything on the air that showed African Americans being born, growing up, marrying, working, contributing to their communities – or dying. Perlmutter proposed to Kobin a series of public television programs that would be for blacks, about blacks, and address their everyday issues from health to family and culture to politics – to be produced by black and white producers. It took Kobin less than a week to recast his budget to provide for four once-a-month hour-long productions that became “Black Journal.”

Perlmutter was named executive producer and instituted a magazine-style format with a black and white production staff made up NET personnel and free-lancers. At the time, Perlmutter suggested that a black EP should be named after the first four programs. The on-air launch was very well received with excellent reviews. As the third program was being readied for air, black members of the staff understandably, given the tenor of the times, petitioned Perlmutter that a black EP be named sooner. There was no argument. He agreed and Bill Greaves took over the EP role. Perlmutter continued for the next couple of programs as a consultant.


* Open: actor Godfrey Cambridge, playing a maintenance worker, paints the screen black.
* Harvard Class Day: Coretta Scott King speaks to the graduating class at Harvard.
* Graduation ’68: interviews with graduating students at Harvard, Southern University, Morehouse and Spelman.
* Press Roundup: history of the black press and review of stories in the news, from the 1800s to today.

Time: 21:00

* Poor People’s Campaign: footage of shantytown built on the mall in Washington, DC, and an update about the status and effect of the movement.
* New Breed Fashions: profile of the all-black clothing design firm, including a runway show. New Breed was the company who basically invented the dashiki in 1967–they adapted an African garment and gave it the name–and then heavily promoted it as the black-identity garment to have.
* Profile of a Jockey: Ronnie Tanner, an apprentice jockey, and a short history of black jockeys in horse racing.

Time: 39:25

* Black Panthers: Review of the Panther-police conflict in Oakland, California.
* Interview with Huey Newton, from prison
* Interview with Bobby Seale
* Dateline: brief news update
* Mass Media Satire: a skit, spoof of the media and how they approach black issues or characters at the time. Lots of semi-veiled ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ jokes.

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