Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Anne Lewis, March 16, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries


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00:00:00 - Her family background

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Partial Transcript: Okay, it is March 16th, 2016.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses her family's origins, as well as her childhood in terms of parental strictness. She also talks about starting down a path to rebellion.

Keywords: All Souls Unitarian Church (Washington, D.C.); Anne Braden; Civil rights movements; Classrooms; Counterculture; De facto segregation; Desegregation; Direct experience; Doris Lewis; Fathers; Freedom; Garment workers; Genealogy; German; Grandparents; Hippies; Hungarian; Illiterate; Illness; Intellectuals; Jewish immigrants; Paul Lewis; Poland; Reading; Rebellion; Republicans; Russia; Stern; United States Marine Corps; Unsuccessful; Working class; Yiddish

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions; Childhood; Education; Families.; Family histories.; Segregation; Washington (D.C.)

00:10:07 - Rebelling against social and cultural norms

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Partial Transcript: What I was curious about when you said that you--through the UU church you find, uh, civil rights--

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses her extensive rebellious phase and how her dysfunctional family life pointed her down a rebellious path. She also talks about playing piano and how her piano teacher brought some awareness of the social issues going on at the time into her life.

Keywords: A. Powell Davies; Angry; Anne Braden; Aspirations; Congress on Racial Equality; Drugs; Dupont Circle; Dysfunctional family; Encouragement; Experiments; Family income; Folk Revival; Gay men; Government agencies; Honor; Illness; Intellect; Middle class values; Ministers; Piano; Prom; Quaker; Rebellion; Rejection; Social justice; Students; Sunday school; Television; Uncomfortable; University of Cambridge; Washington Post

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions; Civil rights movements; Education; Families.; Political activists.; Washington (D.C.)

00:23:30 - Her teenage years at Milton Academy

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Partial Transcript: Um, to move forward then, you were sent to a prep school.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses going to Milton Academy in Boston, Massachusetts and the attitude that she had about it. She talks about being mean to the other students as well as purposefully doing assignments wrong and trying to corrupt those around her.

Keywords: Abrasive; Assignments; Belonged; Chess; Class; Comfortable; Essays; Europe; Intellect; Lessons; Love; Mean; Milton Academy; Nicer; Politics; Pornography; SATs; Solidarity; The Fugs; Work

Subjects: Classism.; Education; High school students--Attitudes; High school students.

00:28:53 - Her aptitude for the sciences

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Partial Transcript: One more question about this time period that I, I, I mean I invite you to take it in whatever direction you like.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis talks about IQ testing in the public school she attended after getting kicked out of a private school in her elementary years. She explains the reasoning behind the IQ tests and her fascination with the sciences.

Keywords: Bass clef; Cold War; Disability; Fiddle; IQ testing; Internships; Math; Mentors; Natural world; Private schools; Public schools; Reading; Rebellion; Sputnik

Subjects: Education; Science.; Teachers; Washington (D.C.)

00:33:21 - University of Cambridge, Berkeley / Mexico

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Partial Transcript: Is this, uh--is it your ability in science that allowed you to, uh, be accepted to UC?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses her attempt at college and dropping out to move to Mexico with her boyfriend that she met while there on a trip after graduating high school. She talks about how she felt on the campus of the University of Cambridge, Berkeley and how she made a living in Mexico after she and her boyfriend broke up. She also mentions that she started taking an interest in filming prior to moving to Mexico and how she filmed a lot of her Mexico adventures.

Keywords: Alliances; Art theater; Artist model; Central Park; Eldridge Cleaver; Events; Excursions; Filming; Free Speech Movement; Freedom; Green; Mexican boyfriend; Petit bourgeois; Poetry; Radcliffe College; Self indulgent; University of Cambridge, Berkeley; Working class

Subjects: Education; Education, Higher; Film.; Filmmakers; Filmmaking (Motion pictures); Mexico.

00:42:40 - Mohammed Mosaddeq

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Partial Transcript: And how did that--how did you come into that c, c, collective?

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses her first real attempt at making a film by editing an old film of Mohammed Mosaddeq that she and a friend stole from the New York Public Library. She completely scrapped the audio of the video and redid it to her heart's content. She mentions that the Iranian Student Organization began to use it to rally students up against the abusiveness of the Iranian government. She also talks about becoming more politically active and mixing that into her films.

Keywords: Anti-war; Audio; Colleges; Emotional content; Fearless; Fiction; Film schools; Footage; Imagery; Influences; Iranian Student Organization; Manipulations; Marxists; Narration; New York Public Library; Opera; Outcomes; Paul Falkenburg; Playing; Political statement; Propaganda; Relationships; Revolution; Rules; School of Visual Arts; Screenings; Social justice; Young people

Subjects: Documentary films.; Education; Education, Higher; Film.; Filmmakers; Motion pictures--Editing.; Political activists.

00:52:52 - Working for well-known filmmakers

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Partial Transcript: And you were meeting these artists though because you talked about Paul Falkenburg and also--

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses her experiences with filmmakers after graduating from the School of Visual Arts in New York. She talks about how she met the different artists and the first time she started getting paid union scale.

Keywords: Artists; Barbara Kopple; Bruce Davison; Commercials; Equipment stores; French Television; Hippy; Income; Marion Craft; Paul Falkenburg; Production assistants; Revolution; Rotoscoping; School of Visual Arts; Teacher

Subjects: Film.; Filmmakers; Jobs & careers; Political activists.

00:58:32 - The Vietnam War

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Partial Transcript: Now, before we get to the French TV thing a, and--I wanted to ask one more question.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses the effect that the Vietnam War had on her political consciousness as well as how she was involved in the anti-war demonstrations. She tells a story about marching in Washington, D.C. and talks about the results of homemade gas masks that her friends made.

Keywords: Boyfriends; Evan Haney; Gas masks; Iranian Students Association; Mass movements; Revolt; School of Visual Arts; Students for a Democratic Society; Veterans; Vulnerable; White House; Winter Soldier; Working class

Subjects: Anti-war demonstrations; Political activists.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975

01:04:10 - Why Harlan County, Kentucky?

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Partial Transcript: But you, you, uh, you mentioned French TV and yeah, I don't want to totally leave that there, but I do want to return to something--how you started the story.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis talks about the reasoning behind Barbara Kopple's involvement in the Harlan County, Kentucky mineworkers' ordeal. She discusses the class basis of revolutions, as well as her take on the reasoning behind the Vietnam War and the Trump administration.

Keywords: Anne Braden; Appalachia; Arnold Miller; Bachelor's degree; Barbara Kopple; Coal fields; Communist Manifesto; Democratic National Convention; Donald Trump; False pride; Farmington Mine Disaster; Footage; Hazel Dickens; Impact; Karl Marx; Mine workers; Miners for Democracy; Nimrod Workman; Poverty; Rank-and-file rebellion; Revolution; Sarah Ogan Gunning; Students for a Democratic Society; Ted Cruz; Tony Boyle; Union leadership; Vietnam War; West Virginia; Working class

Subjects: Class consciousness.; Harlan County (Ky.); Political activists.; War.

01:14:56 - Filming "Harlan County, USA"

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Partial Transcript: Well, um, I--now, it would love to hear that story, given that great context, about your trip to Harlan County.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses her trip to Harlan County, Kentucky to document the coal miner strike. She talks about her lack of knowledge of the area, coming upon danger when first arriving, and attaining protection because of their subjectivity.

Keywords: "Harlan County, USA"; Anne Braden; Barbara Kopple; David Corbin; Elizabeth Barret; Intimacy; Kevin Keating; Miners; Personal; Picket lines; Plows; Richard Warner; Rocks; Sock stores; State troopers; Trains; “Stranger With a Camera”

Subjects: Coal miners--Labor unions; Documentary films.; Film.; Filmmakers; Harlan County (Ky.); Marriage; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining

01:23:27 - The impact of "Harlan County, USA" on her

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Partial Transcript: This is interesting.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses the impact that filming the "Harlan County, USA" documentary had on her as a filmmaker and as a person.

Keywords: "Harlan County, USA"; Adventures; Appalshop, Inc.; Documentary; Intellect; Political evolution; Process; Revolutionary; Tools; Working class

Subjects: Change.; Community media; Film.; Filmmakers; Political activists.

01:27:31 - Appalshop, Inc.--Getting involved with the company

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Partial Transcript: I'm curious now to revisit that question of process.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis tells the story of her first encounter with Appalshop, Inc. She talks about the crew she was working with on the "Harlan County, USA" documentary, wanting the footage of the mine strike that Appalshop, Inc. filmed during the one day that they were on the site of the strike. She discusses her life after the documentary and how she came to be hired by Appalshop, Inc. as a contract worker.

Keywords: Arrogance; Barbara Kopple; Broadside Television; Children; Coal camps; Coal company; Coal fields; Coal mines; Collaborators; Communications Act; Community Access; Contract workers; Crew; Don Baker; Eastover Mining Company; Footage; Herb E. Smith; Impulse; Jerry Johnson; Lawrence Jones; License; Life insurance; Mimi Pickering; Mountain Community Television; Mountains; Pittston Coal Company; Political consciousness; Ralph Stanley Festival; Researchers; Resources; Roadside Theater; Rough cut; Sewing factory; Transformations; Video cameras; Work

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; Community media; Documentary films.; Film.; Filmmakers; Harlan County (Ky.); Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining

01:40:37 - Wrapping up her relationship with "Harlan County, USA"

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Partial Transcript: Before we get to that--and that's exciting because right now we're going to be talking about Appalshop.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses the end of her involvement in the "Harlan County, USA" documentary and the bumpy relationship that developed between her and Barbara Kopple.

Keywords: "Harlan County, USA"; Barbara Kopple; Coal fields; Crew members; Economy; Embarrassment; French TV; Inappropriate; Nancy Baker; New York Times; Tense

Subjects: Film.; Filmmakers; Harlan County (Ky.); Motion pictures--Editing.

01:46:48 - Living in Appalachia

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Partial Transcript: I'm just wondering about this decision to move to Appalachia.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis talks about her connection with Appalachia and how she feels living in Appalachia has provided her with the opportunity to have a relationship with a rare kind of people.

Keywords: Apprenticeship; Coal fields; Exciting; Factory work; Inspirational; Jerry Johnson; Mexico; Missionary; Northwestern Coal Company; Ohio Valley; Other; Relationships; Reliance; Representative; Skills

Subjects: Appalachia.; Culture.; Film.; Jobs & careers; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining

01:55:05 - Part #1: Her career at Appalshop, Inc. (1982)

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Partial Transcript: You get involved with television.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses her career at Appalshop, Inc. during the year 1982. She talks about her role in editing "Red Fox: Second Hangin'" as well as the process of her getting acclimated to the atmosphere of Appalshop, Inc. She also talks about a film she did of reactions to Ronald Reagan's 1983 State of the Union Address and how, after that film, her colleagues at Appalshop, Inc. never doubted her decisions.

Keywords: "Headwaters: Real Stories from Rural America"; "Red Fox: Second Hangin'"; Black Lung; Coal mines; Collaboration; Dee Davis; Directors; Don Baker; Frank Taylor; Marty Newell; Mountain Community Television; NBC affiliate; Neon (Ky.); Performances; Relationships; Roadside Theater; Ronald Reagan; School teachers; Social graces; State of the Union Address; Trailer court

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; Film.; Filmmakers; Motion pictures--Editing.

02:06:16 - Part #2: Her career at Appalshop, Inc. (1984)

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Partial Transcript: So, this is, this is the second segment of an interview with Jeff Keith and Anne Lewis.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses her career at Appalshop, Inc. in 1984 as well as the films that she worked on in that year, such as "Yellow Creek, Kentucky", "Frontier Nursing Service", "Sarah Bailey", "Camp 18", and "Brumley Gap". She tells stories about her experiences filming and discusses whether or not the films have a general theme. Lewis also discusses the levels in which she aims her films (local, regional, national, or international) as well as who she tries to include in her films. She describes the techniques she utilized in "Yellow Creek, Kentucky" to illustrate how she developed her concept of community-directed television.

Keywords: "Brumley Gap"; "Camp 18"; "Frontier Nursing Service"; "Headwaters: Real Stories from Rural America"; "Red Fox: Second Hangin'"; "Sarah Bailey"; "Yellow Creek, Kentucky"; Aging; Analogy; Appalachia; Archival; Blind man; British miners strikes; Cat toss; Causal relationships; Celebrations; City council; City planners; Coal exports; Community; Community base; Community directed television; Cooking; Corn shucks; Creativity; Criminal justice system; Elephants; Ethel Caffie-Austin; Experiments; Expression; Folk artist; Footage; Genres; Hangings; Hazard Kentucky Community Choir; Herb E. Smith; International; Jean Ritchie; Jim Axelford; Larry Wilson; Legality; Local; Marty Newell; Mary Patterson; Media; Minnie Black; Morgan Sexton; National; Nurses; Oral history; Participatory; Participatory research; Perception; Pittston Strike; Political change; Prisoners; Proxy; Reactions; Regional; Roadside Theater; Stories; Tom Davenport; Torturing; Universal; Videos; Virginia Commission for the Arts; Women's liberation

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalshop, Inc.; Careers; Community media; Documentary films--Production and direction.; Documentary films.; Film.; Filmed interviews.; Filmmakers; Motion pictures--Editing.

02:48:26 - Part #3: Her career at Appalshop, Inc. (1985)

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Partial Transcript: Going back to, um, your work at, at Appalshop and through Headwaters, again, every, every year there is so many things we could talk about.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis continues to discuss the films she made during her career at Appalshop, Inc. in 1985, including "Artus Moser of Buckeye Cove", "I'm What This is All About", "Mabel Parker Hardison Smith", and "Tell Me a Story, Sing Me a Song". She talks about her experiences shooting the films, the reactions the films received, and the concepts behind them.

Keywords: "Artus Moses of Buckeye Cove"; "Headwaters: Real Stories from Rural America"; "I'm What This is All About"; "Mabel Parker Hardison Smith"; "Sarah Bailey"; "Tell Me a Story, Sing Me a Song"; Affinity; Artus Moser; Attitudes; Basketball; Coal companies; Collaborations; Daughter-in-law; Diaspora; Dudley Cocke; Eastern Kentucky Social Club; Elizabeth Barret; Ethel Caffie-Austin; Flaws; Folklorists; Funding; Generations; Grandchildren; John O'Neal; Ku Klux Klan.; Linda Martin; Mimi Pickering; Motivations; Music; Nostalgic; Older people; Patriotic; Phonograph; Productive; Roadside Theater; Social issues; Solutions; Trail of Tears; Unsuccessful; Urgency; West Virginia; White supremacy; Wisdom; Young people

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions; Appalshop, Inc.; Documentary films--Production and direction.; Documentary films.; Education; Film.; Filmmakers; Harlan County (Ky.); Politics and government; Racism

03:09:07 - Part #4: Her career at Appalshop, Inc. (1986)

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Partial Transcript: --(Keith laughs)--and, uh, and--but, uh, when I look at your other projects, I want to invite you to talk about, um, a couple that came out in '86...

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses her career at Appalshop, Inc. during the year of 1986. She talks about the films "Mud Creek Clinic" and "Mine War on Blackberry Creek" and the processes of filming them.

Keywords: "Kill 'em all. Let God sort 'em out."; "Mine War on Blackberry Creek"; "Mud Creek Clinic"; A. T. Massey Coal Company; Abusive relationships; Coal miners; Community; Community effort; Dangerous; Despair; Don Blankenship; Eula Hall; Grassroots social leaders; Healthcare; Highlander; Horrendous; Jokes; Mine workers; Oppression; Picket lines; Pittston Strike; Rich Trumka; Rocky Peck; Sandbags; Scabs; Security guards; Social Darwinism; South Africa; Tuberculosis; Union thugs; Unions; Unsuccessful; Victories; Welfare Rights Organization

Subjects: Appalachian Region--Social conditions; Appalshop, Inc.; Documentary films--Production and direction.; Documentary films.; Film.; Politics and government; Strikes and lockouts--Coal mining; Women political activists

03:26:18 - Part #5: Her career at Appalshop, Inc. (1988)

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Partial Transcript: I'd like to invite you to, to say more, if you want, about either "Lily Mae Ledford" or "Minnie Black's Gourd Band".

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses two films that she made during her career at Appalshop, Inc. in 1988 which were "Lily May Ledford" and "Minnie Black's Gourd Band". She talks about the struggle with getting the footage of Lily May Ledford because Appalshop, Inc. did not get funding for the project until three weeks before she died. She also talks about how a colleague of hers discovered Minnie Black's gourd museum and how that led to her directing a film about Black.

Keywords: "Lily May Ledford"; "Minnie Black's Gourd Band"; Comedy; Folklorists; Gender; Lily May Ledford; Minnie Black; Musicians; National Convention of Gourd Artists; Red River Gorge; Tom Hansell

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; Death.; Documentary films--Production and direction.; Documentary films.; Film.; Filmed interviews.

03:31:09 - "On Our Own Land": Appalshop, Inc.'s influence on the vote to ban broad form deeds (1983-1988)

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Partial Transcript: Bef, before wrapping up today, I kind of wanted to have a more meaty discussion about "On Our Own Land" as a place to kind of just land.

Segment Synopsis: Lewis discusses the film that she started directing in 1983 called "On Our Own Land". She talks about the trials and tribulations that came with making the film, as well as the reasons behind the five year production period. The film was deemed controversial because, when it was released in 1988, there was a statewide referendum in Kentucky to get rid of the broad form deed and the film was focused on the Kentucky Fair Tax Coalition whose sole mission was to ban the broad form deed. The film is a significant part of Appalshop, Inc.'s history because it was the first and last time that the entire company agreed on a political issue and voted to take a company-wide stance on it.

Keywords: "Harlan County, USA"; "I don't see dollar signs."; "On Our Own Land"; Arguments; Broad form deeds; Chapters; Coal company; Coal industry; Coal operators; Compelling; Courier-Journal; Dee Davis; Elizabeth Wooten; Fight scene Property rights; Footage; Freedom of press; Freedom of speech; Grassroots organization; Jimmy Asher; Kentucky Fair Tax Coalition; Lexington Herald Leader; Mediators; Mountain top removal; Physical attacks; Politically biased; Press coverage; Referendum; Sidney Cornett; Strip mining; Success; Tense; U.S. marshals; Votes

Subjects: Appalshop, Inc.; Documentary films--Production and direction.; Documentary films.; Film.; Filmed interviews.; Hazard (Ky.); Violence