Uptight! Race, Revolution, and the Most Dangerous Film of 1968
What brings you to Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library?
I wanted to take a look at the Reminiscences of Faith Hubley, which is part of the Oral History Archives. Faith Hubley, along with her husband John, created the incredible animated title sequence to the film Uptight! (dir. Jules Dassin, 1968), the first feature film about the Black Power movement and the subject of my current book project. Uptight! was the target of a sabotage campaign by the FBI, which makes the story of its production quite dramatic in itself.
How long have you been using RBML materials (for this and/or previous research)?
I first used RBML materials when I was researching my dissertation on blacklisted filmmakers working in Europe during the 1950s. This was prepandemic times, and I was living in New York, so I was happy for the excuse to return to Butler, where I’d had a part-time job while an undergraduate at Columbia. I spent a few afternoons reading the oral histories of the director and screenwriter Carl Foreman and the journalist and activist Ella Winter, whose husband Donald Ogden Stewart was a prominent screenwriter. Both Foreman and Winter settled in London in the early 1950s because of the Hollywood blacklist.
Who knows, there may be the seeds of another project there. That’s the nature of research; you never know what you will find or how one project may lead to the next.
What have you found? Did you come here knowing this material was here?
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the most successful fishing trip, as the oral history contained no reference to the Hubley’s work on Uptight! However, it was fascinating to learn more about Faith Hubley’s life and particularly her early professional education in wartime Hollywood and adventures as a young woman in postwar Europe. Who knows, there may be the seeds of another project there. That’s the nature of research; you never know what you will find or how one project may lead to the next.
What have you found that’s surprised or perplexed you?
That she was married at 15! The marriage was short-lived, but speaks to how quickly Faith had to grow up due to difficult family circumstances. That she went on to live a life of political purpose and creative passion is all the more impressive in light of the challenges of her childhood.
What advice do you have for other researchers or students interested in using RBML’s special collections?
No one knows a collection like an archivist, so it’s a good idea to always discuss your research with them, in case you’ve missed any materials that could prove relevant to your project.