Hollywood comes to Miami: major motion film producer receives Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award
Miami University presented major motion film producer/director Reginald Hudlin with the Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award on Sunday, Nov. 7, for his contributions in bringing the Black image to screen.
The award is bestowed by Miami each year upon a distinguished leader who has inspired the nation to advance civil rights and social justice.
In Oxford in 1964 — at what was then the Western College for Women but is now part of Miami University’s Western campus — Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader Bob Moses led the training of 800 college students to travel to the South to register Black voters.
Miami strives to honor the legacy of those who worked for civil rights and social justice and, in the case of Michael Schwerner, 24, James Chaney, 21, and Andrew Goodman, 20, Freedom Summer activists who gave their lives in service to humanity.
“These are superheroes who risked their lives,” Hudlin said of those who trained in Oxford in 1964. “I feel very humbled in that in any way what I do can be compared to what those heroes did. I am inspired and feel a sense of mission.”
Hudlin, a founder and president of Hudlin Entertainment, is known as a “renaissance man” for his work in film, television, and comic books. He is unique in his approaches as a writer, producer, director, and executive.
Hudlin wrote and directed his first film, “House Party,” in 1990. He produced Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film, “Django Unchained,” which earned an Academy Award nomination for best picture.
He directed and produced his 2017 film, “Marshall,” which starred Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice.
In television, he produced shows such as “The Boondocks,” “Friday Night Vibes” with Tiffany Haddish, The Black Panther animated series, and specials such as the “Oscars” and the “NAACP Image Awards.” He was the first Black person to produce the Emmys, which he has done twice.
Hudlin also is an author, writing for the comic books Black Panther, Spider-Man, and the Milestone Media line, Black superheroes.
“We are so honored to present Reginald Hudlin with the Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award,” Miami University President Gregory Crawford said. “His work and passion to promote diversity in the film industry and bring Black American stories to the forefront have advanced justice and equality on a national and global scale.”
Award-winning author and Miami alumnus Wil Haygood was at the event and said of Hudlin’s work, “Hollywood is a better place because of his monumental contributions when it comes to equality and representation.”
Haygood’s newest book, Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World, (Random House, October 2021), highlights the struggle of Blacks in the film industry.
Hudlin spoke about his thought processes behind his films, the entertainment industry, and what’s the next “hot frontier.”
- On his movie, “Marshall,” Hudlin said of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, “He is one of my greatest heroes. Of course, I have deep admiration for Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, … which struck me that so many of the greatest heroes from black America were outlaws. They weren’t criminals, but their fight for justice and humanity put them outside of the law. What distinguished Thurgood was he made law and fought for law.”
- On the ebb and flow of Black representation in film throughout history, Hudlin spoke about the importance of today’s technology, the ability to collect data, and the endless possibilities now available through streaming that has more Black content.
- “Hollywood is transforming because there is hard data of what people want to see,” Hudlin said.
- On what’s next in the industry, Hudlin has his sights on video games.
- “Whenever there is a medium that people dismiss as nonsense, that is where the action is," Hudlin said. "Comic books were nonsense in the 1940s. They now drive popular culture. Gaming is that same area. It’s so tremendously popular with everyone except people who decide what is important or not. Gaming is crucial and I can’t wait to take characters I’m writing and put them in games. Gaming is the hot new frontier, absolutely.”
The Freedom Summer of ‘64 Award has recognized such notables as U.S. Rep. John Lewis, radio talk-show host Joe Madison, former president of the League of Women Voters Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, and NBA executive and basketball icon Wayne Embry (Miami ‘58) and his late wife Terri Embry (Miami ‘60).