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Duke Ellington's Washington DC The Documentary

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

The Documentary

 

Production Team
Documentary Resources

"Duke Ellington's Washington" is a dynamic blend of the music and pictures that illuminate both young Ellington and the hometown that nurtured him, and the intimate oral histories of people who knew Duke as a boy and the community that was home to so many talented African Ameicans. The program takes an unconventional approach by combining the celebrated past of Washington's black community with its modern revival of that heritage along with another of Ellington's legacies, the Ellington School for the Arts which is producing a new stream of talented DC musicians, actors, dancers, and artists of all kinds. The program draws upon urban historians James Horton and Ed Smith and Ellington biographer John Hasse and matches them with the film-making of award-winning African American producer Stanley Nelson, the editing of Cliff Hackel, the archival research of Teresa Gionis, video by Kevin Raullerson and the reporting of Hedrick Smith.

Don't forget to tune in to the national PBS broadcast of "Duke Ellington's Washington" at 10:00 pm on February 7, 2000.

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THE PRODUCTION TEAM

Correspondent Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times correspondent and author of several best-selling books, has been creator and correspondent of six PBS prime-time series on major topics in the fields of politics, economics, foreign affairs and urban society as well as hosting and/or writing a dozen other documentaries.

Prior to turning to documentary production and writing books, Hedrick Smith was a distinguished correspondent for The New York Times from 1962 until 1988, serving in Washington, Moscow, Cairo, Saigon, Paris and the American South. Mr. Smith has published several national best-selling books, including The Russians (1976), The Power Game: How Washington Works (1988) and The New Russians (1990). His latest book, Rethinking America (1995), compares the economic cultures of America, Germany and Japan operating under the pressures of global competition.

Veteran Producer Stanley Nelson in his 20 years of experience as a producer, director, and writer, has created such award-winning documentary films and videos as Two Dollars and a Dream: The Story of Madame C.J. Walker, on the life and times of the African American businesswoman who became the nation's first self-made woman millionaire, and the forthcoming 90-minute documentary, The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords. After working on several projects with Bill Moyers, Nelson has produced several PBS films, including Freedom Bags, a documentary on the northern migration of African American domestic workers during the first half of the 20th century; and Shattering the Silences, a 90-minute film on the growing presence of and challenges to minority faculty in higher education.

Nelson's specific strengths for HSP are both in producing historical documentaries and his own very personal experience in Washington. Nelson's father grew up in Washington and remembers being inspired as a teenager by seeing the confidence and dignity with which Duke Ellington and his orchestra walked through Union Station. Nelson himself also formerly lived in the Shaw area, while teaching film production at Howard University.

Associate Producer Teresa G. Gionis has been with Hedrick Smith Productions since 1997, as associate producer and directing the research for Duke Ellington's Washington, as associate producer for Seeking Solutions, and as a production assistant/ assistant editor for Surviving the Bottom Line. Before coming to HSP, she conducted archival research and provided production support for a number of films, including projects for the Freedom Forum's "Newseum," and for Educational Film Center's films The Marshall Plan and Beyond the Vote — Equality.

Editor Cliff Hackel is an Emmy-award winning documentary editor with over twenty years of freelance experience. With a strong background in investigative and political programming, Hackel has edited for both broadcast and cable networks including ABC, CBS, PBS, CNN, Discovery Channel, and American Movie Classics. He has also produced and edited magazine length shows for CNN. Among the projects he has edited for Hedrick Smith Productions are Challenge to America, Across the River, The Power Game, and Seeking Solutions.

Hackel was awarded an Emmy for documentary editing in 1990 for ABC's The Koppel Report: Death of a Dictator. Emmy Show awards for programs Hackel has edited include CBS's The Kennedy Center Honors in 1994 and CNN's Impact show Arkan: Wanted in 1997. Emmy show nominations for programs Hackel has edited include PBS Health Quarterly in 1991 and CNN Newsstands' Operation Teacup in 1998.

Production Manager Sandra Udy brings ten years of experience at ABC News to Hedrick Smith Productions. As senior program controller for ABC, she coordinated the budget, logistics, and personnel for such well-known shows as This Week with David Brinkley, Good Morning America, and World News This Morning. She joined Hedrick Smith Productions in 1994 and has managed the full production cycle—from conception, to R&D, to budgeting, to tracking costs, to completion—for two four-hour series and for numerous segments for PBS's "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer."

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DOCUMENTARY RESOURCES

For written sources on the forces that shaped Duke Ellington, the documentary has drawn from many published works, including:

  • Music Is My Mistress; Ellington's autobiography
  • Ellington: The Early Years and The Ellington Reader by Mark Tucker
  • Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington by John Edward Hasse
  • Duke Ellington by Barry Ulanov
  • Reminiscing in Tempo by Stuart Nicholson

In addition, of number of periodical resources were used, including several from The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

These writings and scholarly commentaries generally support the themes of a closely-knit, well structured, affluent, and socially cohesive community around U Street, LeDroit Park, and Howard University, thriving in the face of segregation imposed by the dominant white society.

We have also drawn upon important published scholarly work on the history of Washington and of the African American community in Washington, including:

  • The Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the Nation's Capital by Constance McLaughlin Green
  • Washington in the New Era, 1870-1970 by Letitia W. Brown and Elise M. Lewis
  • "The Negro in Washington" in Washington, Capital and City by Sterling Brown
  • Urban Odyssey: A Multicultural History of Washington, D.C. by Francine Cary
  • City of Magnificent Intentions by Keith Melder et al,
  • The Guide to Black Washington. by Sandra Fitzpatrick and Maria R. Goodwin,
  • A Guide to the Historical Resources of Shaw, by Kathryn Schneider Smith and Marya McQuirter
  • "Shaw: Heart of Black Washington" in Washington at Home: An Illustrated History of Neighborhoods in the Nation's Capital by Marcia Greenlee

The project's interpretive approach has relied on analysis and commentary of experienced urban historians such as:

  • Professor James Horton — George Washington University
  • Professor Edward C. Smith — American University
  • Kathryn S. Smith, Executive director, DC Heritage Tourism Coalition, past President of the Washington Historical Society
  • John Edward Hasse, Ellington biographer and curator at the Smithsonian Institution
  • Mark Tucker, music historian from the College of William and Mary.

Our creative approach matched the extensive photographic records of the U Street community, important events, and prominent personalities, as well as social life, with on-camera interviews with historians and on-camera recollections of community elders such as:

  • Billy Taylor — locally raised jazz composer and pianist
  • Alice Spraggins — daughter of Henry Grant, Ellington's classical piano teacher
  • Robert H. McNeill— photographer
  • Nora Drew Gregory — sister of Dr. Charles Drew
  • Dennette Harrod — long-time resident and music buff
  • Thelma Baltimore — senior resident and graduate of Dunbar High School
  • Charles + Virginia Williams — graduates of Ellington's alma mater Armstrong HS
  • Dr. Stanley Nelson — graduate of Dunbar High School and Howard University.

For the modern history and revitalization of the U Street/Shaw area, we relied upon oral histories and interviews with:

  • Virginia Ali — long-time proprietor of Ben's Chili Bowl
  • Paul Devrouax — architect
  • The Rev. Jim Dickerson, founder of MANNA, a community development corporation
  • Davey Yarborough — Instrumental Music Director of the Ellington School for the Arts
  • Shannon Browne — senior student at the Ellington School. drummer in school band
  • Ernest Drew Jarvis and Jair Lynch — local developers
  • Oliver Cromwell — D.C. city official
  • Kevin Bryant — president of the Whitelaw Hotel tenant association.

In addition, the production team gathered important information through interviews with:

  • Al Afshir — local businessman
  • Nizam Ali — local businessman
  • Dennis Askey — Ellington devotee, collector
  • Ruth Ellington Boatwright — sister of Duke Ellington
  • Howard Bonds — senior resident
  • Florence Brown — senior resident
  • Charles Cassell, Carlin Jazz Society, son of Howard University architect, Albert Cassell
  • Wallace "Smoke" Conway — former resident
  • Dr. Paul Phillips Cooke — former President of Miner Teachers College
  • Alyce Ellis Dickson — senior resident
  • Norris Dodson — local businessman
  • Grace Ridgeley Drew — senior resident
  • Tex Gathings — Ellington devotee, collector
  • Dr. Luvinia George — music, education scholar
  • Harold Grey — senior resident, jazz scholar
  • Bill Hassan — neighborhood historian
  • Clyde Howard — senior resident, Masonic Lodge leader
  • Theodore Hudson — former Howard professor, Ellington devotee
  • Reuben Jackson — Ellington archivist
  • Pauline Jones — senior resident
  • Annie Kuebler — Ellington archivist
  • Derek Kowalazyk — local businessman
  • Dr. William Lofton — physician, senior resident
  • Jimmy Long — senior resident
  • Stanley Mayes — local businessman
  • Barbara Matusow — journalist, DC history researcher
  • Doris McGinty — music historian
  • Dr. Hassan Minor — Howard University executive
  • Albert Murray — Ellington, jazz scholar
  • Dominic Moulden — Executive Director, Manna
  • Freeman Murray — senior resident
  • Bebe Drew Price — senior resident
  • Charlotte Price — former Washingtonian
  • Hugh Price — President of Urban League, former resident
  • Adelaide Robinson — senior resident
  • George Scurlock — photographer, businessman
  • John Snipes — local businessman
  • Dr. Ted Shell — Ellington devotee, senior resident
  • Edith Smith — senior resident
  • Anna Louise Tatum — senior resident
  • Frank Turner — former resident
  • Barry Ulanov — Ellington, jazz scholar
  • Walter Washington — former Washington mayor
  • Henry Whitehead — social historian and longtime resident
  • Norman Wood — fourth generation resident, local businessman

The themes of this documentary have lent themselves readily to extensive use of period photographs and of available films from the first four decades of the 20th Century. The research team led by Associate Producer Teresa Gionis put great stress on doing extensive research of major photographic archives in the Washington area such as:

  • Duke Ellington Collection, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History
  • The Gelman Library, George Washington University
  • The Historical Society of Washington, DC
  • Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University
  • The Library of Congress
  • The D.C. Public Library
  • National Archives and Records Administration
  • The Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives
  • Scurlock Studio Collection, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History
  • The Washington Post

New York area repositories were researched as well:

  • Frank Driggs Collection
  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library

The project has also drawn upon several local and personal photographic collections, including:

  • Manna
  • Robert H. McNeill Collection
  • Alice Spraggins Collection
  • The Henry P. Whitehead Collection
  • Charles and Virginia Williams

We have drawn upon important published scholarly work on the history of Washington and of the African American community in Washington, including Constance McLaughlin Green, Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the Nation's Capital; Sterling Brown, "The Negro in Washington"; Francine Cary, Urban Odyssey: A Multicultural History of Washington, D.C.; Keith Melder et al, City of Magnificent Intentions; Letitia W. Brown and Elise M. Lewis, Washington in the New Era, 1870-1970; and Sandra Fitzpatrick and Maria R. Goodwin, The Guide to Black Washington. Of considerable assistance as well has been A Guide to the Historical Resources of Shaw, by Kathryn Schneider Smith and Marya Mcquirter.

For written sources on the forces that shaped Duke Ellington, the documentary has drawn primarily on Ellington's autobiography, Music Is My Mistress; Mark Tucker, Ellington: The Early Years and The Ellington Reader; John Edward Hasse, Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington; and Barry Ulanov, Duke Ellington and Stuart Nicholson, Reminiscing in Tempo. These writings and scholarly commentaries generally support the themes of a closely-knit, well structured, affluent, and socially cohesive community around U Street, LeDroit Park, and Howard University, thriving in the face of segregation imposed by the dominant white society.

 

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