The Museum of Modern Art's department of film : how two public film programs addressed social and cultural conditions of African American communities



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This study investigates the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Film and its role during the mid-1960s into the 1970s as an educational institution that addressed the social and cultural conditions of African American communities. The study is framed around two public film programs known as Cinéprobe and What’s Happening?, concentrating on the years 1965-1974, during which the two programs were established. An examination is made of both programs as they progressed in the early years as educational programming for MoMA’s audience. In both programs, African American filmmakers were invited to share their films and to discuss the meaning and process of filmmaking to an audience unfamiliar of their work. Evidence that both programs were intended to be educational pursuits is examined, including museum memos, letters, press releases, and recorded audio. The study concludes by suggesting a historical reframing of film programs in the 1960s as pertinent to the field of art education.