Pioneering filmmaker and television producer Madeline Anderson is often credited as being the first black woman to produce and direct a televised documentary film, the first black woman to produce and direct a syndicated TV series, the first black employee at New York-based public television station National Educational Television (WNET), and one of the first black women to join the film editor’s union.
Anderson went on to become the in-house producer and director for Sesame Street and The Electric Company for the Children’s Television Workshop. During the early 1970s, she also helped create what would become WHUT-TV at Howard University, the country's first, and only, black-owned public television station. Anderson was critical of Hollywood and preferred to work outside of that system.
Anderson's credits also include: Assistant director/assistant editor of The Cool World (1964); producer/director of Malcolm X: Nationalist or Humanist? (1967); producer/director/editor/writer of I Am Somebody (1970); producer/director/editor of The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1975); executive producer of the series The Infinity Factory (1978); and senior producer/writer of the series Al Manahil (1987).
Known for his portrayal of the African American experience, Charles Burnett is an independent filmmaker from the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Burnett, wrote, directed, produced, photographed, and edited his first feature film, Killer of Sheep (1977). In 1990, Burnett became the first African American recipient of the National Society of Film Critics’ best screenplay award for To Sleep with Anger (1990).
His other features include My Brother’s Wedding (1983), The Glass Shield (1994), and Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation (2007). Burnett has also made several documentaries, including America Becoming (1991) and Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (2003) in addition to short films, such as The Horse (1973) and When It Rains (1995).
Burnett has been awarded grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the J. P. Getty Foundation. The Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective of Burnett's work in 2011, and that same year, the University Press of Mississippi published the book, Charles Burnett: Interviews.