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(San Francisco)—When Hurricane Katrina ripped the roof off New Orleans, the nation stopped in its tracks, riveted to images of the city's primarily black and poor residents left to fend for themselves. Shocked by the abject poverty and terrible conditions suddenly visible to the entire world, voices cried out against the injustice of the situation. But those conditions—poverty, lack of opportunity and poor education—and the violence they spawn are nothing new. JULY '64 explores what happened at a street dance in Rochester, New York, one hot July night when a routine arrest took a turn for the worse and ended with the National Guard being called to a northern city for the first time during the era of the Civil Rights Movement. Released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the event, JULY '64 uncovers new information about an often-overlooked episode in American civil rights history and uses this historic event to question why race remains a central issue in America today. As part of Black History Month on PBS, JULY '64 will be broadcast on Independent Lens, hosted by Edie Falco, on Tuesday, February 14, at 10pm.
What later came to be known as the Rochester Riot touched off 1964's “long, hot summer” of riots in small and mid-sized northern cities. As did the riots in many of those cities, the three days of unrest and civil disobedience in Rochester provoked actions that reverberate to this day. Directed by Carvin Eison and produced by Chris Christopher, JULY '64 uses a combination of historic archive footage, contemporaneous news reports and newly collected interviews to dig deep into the causes and effects of the disturbance. Analyses by Dr. James E. Turner of Cornell University and others, including national political commentator and former Gannett News reporter Jack Germond, place the events in Rochester in a national context.
Among those who appear in the documentary are musicians Chuck and Gap Mangione, State Assemblyman David Gantt (NY), Mayor William A. Johnson Jr., Rev. Dr. Arthur Whitaker of Harvard University, Minister Franklin Florence, Constance Mitchell, and others. The narrator is distinguished actor Roscoe Lee Browne—an Emmy Award winner, a Tony nominee and narrator of two Oscar-nominated films. JULY '64 features a never-before-released live recording of Duke Ellington performing “Night Creature” with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in an Arranger's Holiday Concert at the Eastman Theater in Rochester. With Ellington at the piano, “Night Creature” was recorded on August 6, 1964—less than two weeks after the events recounted in JULY '64. After learning that Ellington's 1964 summer tour schedule had included a stop in Rochester, Eison and Christopher did some digging and discovered the “Night Creature” recording in the archives of the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music Sibley Library. By working closely with David Peter Coppen, Special Collections librarian, Eison and Christopher were able to secure permission to use this special and historically unique recording as the score for JULY '64.
JULY '64 is a production of ImageWordSound, presented by Independent Television Service (ITVS), the National Black Programming Consortium and WXXI-TV, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Additional funding was provided by the legislature of the state of New York, sponsored by Assemblyman Gantt, and the Housing Education Fund of the Rochester Area Community Foundation.
The companion website for JULY '64 (www.pbs.org/independentlens/july64/) features detailed information on the film, an interview with the filmmakers and a discussion guide as well as links and resources pertaining to the film's subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, to preview clips of the film, and more.
JULY '64 Credits
Director: Carvin Eison
Producer: Chris Christopher
Narrator: Roscoe Lee Brown
Director of Photography: Carvin Eison
Editor: Carvin Eison
Writer: Chris Christopher
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
CARVIN EISON (Director/Director of Photography/Editor)
Carvin Eison is the creative director of ImageWordSound, an independent production company; the general manager of Rochester Community Television; and an associate professor at SUNY College at Brockport. Eison has won national recognition for his work for ImageWordSound, including a 25th-anniversary Classic Gold Telly, gold and silver medals at the Houston International Film and Video Festival, and honorable mention at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival. His work has been screened at the Contemporary Museum of Art in Warsaw, Poland, the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House and numerous film festivals nationwide. His work on JULY '64 was recognized with two New York State Emmy nominations, a national Broadcast Educators Association Award of Excellence and a Telly.
Eison has nearly 30 years' experience directing feature-length video, series television, and commercials for a wide array of corporate and not-for-profit clients. Since 1978, Eison has been the videographer for Garth Fagan Dance and has toured internationally with the company. His work is included in the collection of the National Dance Archive and the Library of Congress. Eison has extensive experience directing live concert video, including the Frontline Festival concert in Zimbabwe for UNICEF (in association with Harry Belafonte) and Chuck Mangione's “Friends and Lovers” concert for PBS. In addition, Eison worked for eight years as a videographer, coordinating producer and producer/director for WXXI, a PBS affiliate in Rochester. He is the winner of two National Black Programming Consortium awards for work produced in association with WXXI and was the recipient of Rochester's Communicator of the Year award for film and video and a Red Ribbon from the American Film Festival.
Eison directed two seasons of Perfectly Clear, a weekly news and current affairs program with host Curt Smith. Guests included major national figures: President George H.W. Bush, former Senator Bill Bradley, Governor George Pataki, U.S. Secretary for Transportation Norman Mineta and Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. He also directed The Home Show, a 12-part television series on affordable home ownership and home buying that was a national pilot project of the Fannie Mae Foundation.
CHRIS CHRISTOPHER (Producer/Writer)
Chris Christopher is the managing director of the independent production company ImageWordSound and the owner of Christopher Communications. She specializes in working with not-for-profit organizations and candidates for political office. Christopher has won national recognition for her work for ImageWordSound, including a 25th-anniversary Classic Gold Telly, gold and silver medals at the Houston International Film and Video Festival, and honorable mention at the Columbus International Film and Video Festival. Her work has been screened at the Contemporary Museum of Art in Warsaw, Poland, the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House and numerous film festivals nationwide. Her work on JULY '64 was recognized with a New York State Emmy nomination and a Telly. Christopher produced two seasons of Perfectly Clear, directed by Eison.
JULY '64 ON-AIR PARTICIPANTS
Dr. Walter Cooper
Retired New York State Regent and Kodak chemist who was a leader in Rochester's civil rights movement.
Longtime reporter for WHEC-TV in Rochester and one of the first reporters on the scene of the Rochester Riot.
Robert Duffy Career
member of the Rochester police force, chief of police since 1998 and mayor-elect of Rochester.
Minister Franklin Florence
Founder of FIGHT (Freedom, Integration, God, Honor, Today), an organization that is credited with opening up employment opportunities at Eastman Kodak Co.; a friend of Malcolm X; and a leader in Rochester's civil rights movement.
David F. Gantt
State of New York assemblyman and dean of the Rochester delegation to the legislature of the state of New York.
National political commentator; former reporter with the Times-Union in Rochester; wrote a series of articles in the early 1960s describing the deteriorating conditions in Rochester's African American community.
City manager during the 1964 riot, now deceased.
William A. Johnson Jr.
Mayor of the city of Rochester from 1993 to 2005; was Rochester's first African American mayor.
Mayor of Rochester in 1964.
Grammy Award–winning musician and Rochester native who grew up in the neighborhood adjacent to the riot area.
Musician; brother of Chuck Mangione.
First African American woman elected in Rochester—was supervisor of the Third Ward, where the 1964 riot occurred; a friend of Malcolm X; and a leader in Rochester's civil rights movement.
President of “The Matadors” street gang in 1964; now president of the Rochester City School Board.
Rochester city historian. Dr. James Turner Professor of African studies, Cornell University.
Rev. Dr. Arthur Whitaker
Former pastor of Mt. Olivet Church in the riot area; professor (ret.) at Harvard Divinity School.