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Brownsville Black and White

Brownsville Black and White - Image Produced by Laurann Black,Richard Broadman.
83 min. Color. 2002.
Available as: VHS and DVD
Captioned: No
Catalog #: 0057
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Sale Price: $295.00 Buy VHS Buy DVD

This poignant and powerful documentary explores the complex history of interracial cooperation, urban change, and social conflict in Brownsville, a neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, from the 1930s to the present. A case study of the tragedy of urban American race relations, the film recounts the transformation of Brownsville from a poor but racially harmonious area made up largely of Jews and blacks to a community made up almost entirely of people of color.

Dubbed "The First American Ghetto" by historians and the press, Brownsville today is afflicted by poverty, gangs, drugs, decay, and unemployment. In the 1940s Brownsville was famous for its grass-roots integration. But it later achieved notoriety for one of the most divisive and bitter black-white confrontations in American history, the 1968 Ocean Hill Brownsville School War, in which the African-American (and Hispanic) community battled the predominantly white and Jewish Teachers Union.

"Brownsville Black and White" examines some of the most troubling and perplexing issues facing America and its cities and raises a multitude of discussible questions. The film will provoke reflection, analysis, and debate in a variety of courses in sociology and social issues, American history and American studies, African American studies, urban studies, race relations, cultural anthropology, Jewish Studies, and education. It was produced by Richard Broadman and Laurann Black.


"A remarkably encompassing teaching tool, illuminating virtually every important aspect of American urban race relations after 1945. Residential segregation, white flight, the underclass, school reform, black-Jewish alliances and rivalries -- all are brought to life through the film's powerful imagery and vivid characterization. This is a probing, moving, and deeply human film about a special time, place, and neighborhood. It is essential viewing for anyone who cares about our cities and the people who live in them." -- Jerald Podair, Asst. Professor of History, Lawrence Univ.

"An excellent introduction to the history of 20th-century American race relations that resonates with the issues facing the country today. The film illuminates, and provides a basis for discussion of, the role of race and class in shaping the lives of working Americans, but it also reveals the power that committed individuals have to change society. Brownsville Black and White also contributes greatly to our understanding of urban change, and is a great resource for teachers interested in urban issues." -- Wendell Pritchett, Asst. Prof. of Law, Univ. of Pennsylvania Law School, Asst. Prof. of History, Baruch College, CUNY, and author of Brownsville, Brooklyn: Blacks, Jews and the Changing Face of the Ghetto

"Offers a fresh entry into an explosive debate, by revisiting the late 1960s Ocean Hill Brownsville school battles between the largely white teacher's union and black and white community school activists. It sets these conflicts in the context of Brownsville's history as a crowded, racially mixed neighborhood of progressive politics, youth gangs, and poverty. Wonderful historic footage and photographs and black and white narrators' memories bring to life a neighborhood in the 1930s and 1940s where racial boundaries were routinely crossed and racial antagonisms were not inevitable. The film provides a rich backdrop for exploring the social changes that made it so hard for the two sides in the school wars to know or recognize each other. Highly recommended for any classes in twentieth-century urban history, history of education, or racial and ethnic conflict." -- Judith Smith, Director, Graduate Program in American Studies, Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston


  • American Sociological Assn. honoree
  • American Anthropological Assn. selection
  • New England American Studies Conference honoree
  • Urbanworld Film Festival honoree
  • Natl. Foundation for Jewish Culture Award
  • Pan-African Film Festival honoree
  • New York Jewish Film Festival honoree
  • Gotham History Conference honoree
  • San Francisco Jewish Film Festival honoree
  • Haifa Intl. Film Festival honoree



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