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A Guide to his Holdings at the Black Film Center/Archive
Finding aid prepared by Mary Huelsbeck/Hannah Caproon/Gabriel Gardner/Stacey Doyle
Black Film Center/Archive
1320 East Tenth Street
Herman B Wells Library, Room 044
Bloomington, IN 47405-7000
Special Collection WG
Materials are in English
Writings, speeches, promotional materials, clippings, and information about the documentary film pursuits of William Greaves.
This collection is open for research.
The word multidimensional can be used to describe William Greaves, who has played the role of executive producer, director, producer, writer, editor and sound technician, cameraman, dancer, drama teacher, and Broadway actor.
Greaves was born on October 8, 1925 in Harlem. Growing up in Harlem, Greaves took up drawing at the age of four. At the age of fourteen he was considered one of the seventy-five best artists in the state of New York and received a scholarship to study in a special art course at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Greenwich Village. While Greaves attended Frederick Douglass Junior High School he began composing songs and studying trumpet. Greaves' heart was set on the music and the arts, but his more practical-minded father convinced him to go to Stuyvesant High School, which was a prestigious science oriented school. While at Stuyvesant, Greaves was on the varsity basketball team, an artist for the school newspaper, a member of the scholastic honor society Arista, and in 1980 he was awarded the distinguished alumni achievement. Greaves graduated in the top ten percent of his class and went on to City College.
Greaves studied engineering for a year and a half at City College and took up dance while he was there. Greaves left City College in 1944 and joined the African Dance Company of Sierre Leone. Next he was accepted into the renowned Pearl Primus Dance Troupe, and then the American Negro Theater. Greaves' first performance with the American Negro Theatre was in the role of Beles/Blues boy in Owen Dodson's Garden of Time. He received rave reviews from New York critics for that performance. Greaves performed in other Broadway plays and acted alongside Sidney Poitier and Anthony Quinn, and also won membership into the Actors Studio.
In the 1950's Greaves became infuriated by the negative stereotype of African Americans that was presented on television and Broadway so he stepped away from acting and got behind the camera. Greaves studied film production at the New Institute for Film with Hans Richter at the Film Institute of City College. At the same time he studied African history at the Schomburg Center and the Ethiopian Library with William Leo Hansberry. Greaves had trouble finding support at this point until Louis De Rochemont, who directed him in Lost Boundaries , gave him an apprenticeship. In 1961 Greaves was offered a position with the United Nations as Public Information Officer with their International Civil Aviation Organization in Canada. He left the United Nations in 1964 when the United States Information Agency asked him to make a film for them. Also in 1964, Greaves started William Greaves Production Inc.
Greaves has produced over 200 documentary films, won more then 70 international film festival awards, an Emmy award as executive producer of Black Journal and received four Emmy nominations. Greaves is also the winner of special image awards from the NAACP and the National Urban League as well as recipient of an Indy Special Life Achievement Award from the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers. He was honored at The Actors Studio with the Dusa Award along with Robert DeNiro, Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando, Sally Field, Rod Steiger, Dustin Hoffman, Estelle Parsons and Ellyn Burstyn in 1980. Also in that year, he was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and received a special homage at the first Black American Independent Film Festival in Paris.
The William Greaves collection serves to capture the impact that William Greaves has had on documentary filmmaking in the United States and covers the period of 1968-2003. The collection consists of five series: Black Journal, Clippings, Photographs, Promotional Materials, and Writing and Speeches. Black Journal contains information about the groundbreaking television series produced and co-hosted by Greaves. Material in the Clippings series is arranged chronologically and includes reviews and analyses of Greaves' films, interviews of Greaves, and articles in general about the filmmaker and his works. The Photographs series contains images of Greaves and promotional materials from his films Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968) and Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey (2001). The Promotional Materials series is arranged chronologically and consists of posters, pamphlets, advertisements, press kits, and miscellaneous materials that promote Greaves' body of work. The Writings and Speeches series is also arranged chronically and is made up of articles Greaves has written about films and filmmaking as well as transcripts and a program for speeches that he has given.
For a detailed inventory of each series, please ask the archives' staff.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection. Materials about related topics, persons or places can be found by searching the catalog using these terms.