Take This Hammer

About This Item

Note: to send your email vote in support of Take this Hammer's nomination to the National Film Registry, please visit this web page at the Library of Congress's web site: http://www.loc.gov/film/vote.html.

Please note: copyright to Take this Hammer is held by WNET. All rights reserved. WNET is the premier public media provider of the New York metropolitan area and parent of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21. Take this hammer was originally produced by KQED for National Educational Television (NET) - the predecessor of WNET - and first aired on February 4th 1964 at 7:30pm, on KQED Ch.9 in the Bay Area.KQED's mobile film unit follows author and activist James Baldwin in the spring of 1963, as he's driven around San Francisco to meet with members of the local African-American community. He is escorted by Youth For Service's Executive Director Orville Luster and intent on discovering: "The real situation of Negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present." He declares: "There is no moral distance ... between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. Someone's got to tell it like it is. And that's where it's at." Includes frank exchanges with local people on the street, meetings with community leaders and extended point-of-view sequences shot from a moving vehicle, featuring the Bayview Hunters Point and Western Addition neighborhoods. Baldwin reflects on the racial inequality that African-Americans are forced to confront and at one point tries to lift the morale of a young man by expressing his conviction that: "There will be a Negro president of this country but it will not be the country that we are sitting in now." The TV Archive would like to thank Darryl Cox for championing the merits of this film and for his determination that it be preserved and remastered for posterity.

In the film’s very opening scene, Famios Bell (aka Jackie Bell) says to Orville Luster: “I’ll tell you about San Francisco. The white man, he’s not taking advantage of you out in public, like they’re doing down in Birmingham, but he’s killing you with that pencil and paper, brother!” Famios’ family moved to Bayview in 1943 and he eventually worked for almost 40 years as a federal employee before retiring. When interviewed about his meeting with Baldwin by Dutch filmmaker Caroline Bins in 2012, he recalled: “I asked him [Baldwin] what’s it like to be a great writer? … He told me you have to study. You have to become articulate and you have to care. These things I remember, and he also told me that we would have a Black president one day. That sticks in my mind more than anything.” Famios went on to play an active role in his community, coaching basketball and mentoring youth, and this is just one example of how Baldwin’s 1963 visit had a positive impact on the neighborhood.

Follow this weblink to view an interview with director Richard O. Moore, who discusses the original production and working with Baldwin in The Making of Take this Hammer. As Moore notes, 15 minutes were cut from his original version by order of KQED's Board of Directors, some of whom felt the film cast San Francisco's race relations in an overly negative way. One board member stated that: "I believe we would all agree that it is not the function of KQED to produce inflammatory, distorted, sacrilegious, extremist programming under the name of educational television. I believe this program is all of these." The original 59 minute director's cut may now also be viewed in DIVA.

Also note that KQED produced an edition of their Profile, Bay Area TV show on July 11th 1963, at 9:00pm on Ch.9, titled "Is San Francisco Another Birmingham?" This is listed on p.37 of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper from that day. As Take this Hammer was produced during the spring of 1963, it seems reasonable to speculate that this program was produced in direct response to Baldwin's hypothesis in Take this Hammer that: "There is no moral distance ... between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham." But we are unable to find any copy of this program in our collections. If anyone has leads relating to the possible whereabouts of a copy of this Profile show, please contact the TV Archive. Another citation we found stated that this program was hosted by Caspar W. Weinberger.

Type of material
archival news film
Recording medium
16mm b&w optical sound film
Date aired
Originally aired on
KQ 327

Related Items