Posted Dec. 18, 2007 – St. Clair Bourne, the pioneering filmmaker who served as producer of the nation’s first Black public affairs show and whose works on Paul Robeson, Gordon Parks and Langston Hughes were highly acclaimed, died Saturday in New York City. He was 64.
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He had recently undergone an operation to remove a brain tumor.
Bourne was born in Harlem during the World War II, where he was exposed to the vibrancy of Black artistic life. Many of the influences he experienced there would color his life. He headed to D.C. to attend Georgetown University student in the 1960s, but he was suspended for participating in a sit-in; he later attended Syracuse University, where he earned degree in journalism and political science.
During a two-year stint in South America in the Peace Corps, Bourne gained national notoriety when EBONY magazine did a 10-page spread on his volunteer work and an award-winning journal he published.
In 1971, he was hired to produce “Black Journal,” a public affairs program that focused on issues of the Black community. His tenure there was short-lived, and Bourne established his own production company, Chamba. Among his many films and documentaries, produced for forums such as PBS and HBO, were features on poet Amiri Baraka, historian and Pan-African activist John Henrik Clarke and Spike Lee.
His documentary on Gordon Parks, the late photographer/author/director, won three Emmys for HBO. At the time of his death, Bourne was producing a documentary on Earnest Withers, the civil rights photographer who died in October at age 85.
Bourne is survived by a sister, Judith Bourne, a lawyer in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
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