Take This Hammer


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James Baldwin was an intellectual, an author, and a talented cultural critic.

‘Take This Hammer:’ Action Through Art + Art Through Action at the YBCA

Though his medium was a typewriter and paper, his honest and sharp messages on race in America were as hard-hitting as if they had been delivered with a hammer. The song has been recorded by many artists and some versions reference the legendary African American spike driver, John Henry. Also that year, Baldwin and other civil rights advocates and cultural luminaries such as playwright Lorraine Hansberry A Raisin in the Sun met with U.

On August 19, Baldwin led a civil rights demonstration in Paris, then participated in the March on Washington on August 28 and made his second trip to Africa.

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Orville B. Someone's got to tell it like it is.

Flatt & Scruggs - Take This Hammer

And that's where it's at. He also reflects on the racial inequality that African Americans are forced to confront and at one point tries to lift the morale of a young man, by expressing his conviction that: "There will be a Negro president of this country but it will not be the country that we are sitting in now.

Take This Hammer

In January , Moore pointed out that nearly fifteen minutes of somewhat controversial statements from kids at Hunters Point were cut from his film. This was a concession that he deeply regretted.

They felt that the lengthy sequences with young Black Muslims were excessive and that the film should not be broadcast. Cutting the sequences shifted the attention to Baldwin and away from the Black Muslims.

Protest Song of the Week: ‘Take This Hammer’

In the interests of getting the film broadcast, Moore agreed to the cuts. This cleared the way for both local and national broadcast.


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It also placed a great strain on his relationship with James Baldwin. He was genuinely surprised at the intensity of the anger expressed by the youth and felt that this should be the major emphasis of the film.


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The long monologue at the end of the film shifted the attention back to Baldwin. This may have made it more of an "artful" documentary but at the expense of, once again, ignoring the plight of young, urban African Americans. A 16mm film print featuring Moore's original edit 59 minutes long was identified in the KQED Film Collection at the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive in June which contained 15 minutes of extra footage, mostly featuring scenes of African American youth speaking with Baldwin about their lives and the police, on the streets of San Francisco.

Movette Film Transfer of San Francisco remastered this 16mm positive film print in August in 2K resolution x pixels , using a Kinetta film scanner. Moore also noted that there are no full credits at the end of the film.

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