James Baldwin: “Take This Hammer” (1963)

“There is no moral distance between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham.”

In the summer of 1963, the KQED Film Unit invited author James Baldwin to investigate racism in San Francisco. Baldwin agreed to be filmed while he scrutinized the liberal, cosmopolitan image projected by the city. Before “Take This Hammer” was televised, KQED’s Board of Directors insisted that 15 minutes of footage had to be removed, which some felt portrayed race relations in an overly negative way.

On February 5, 2014 there was a free public screening of Take this Hammer (the director’s cut) at the Bayview Opera House on Third Street in San Francisco, to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the film’s first television broadcast. This community event was organized and co-sponsored by the Center for Political Education (CPE), the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive, the Bayview Branch of the San Francisco Public Library and POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights). The San Francisco Arts Commission also assisted with producing this event.