A Saint Bourne in Harlem

December 3, 2007

Center for Communication:How to Make a Great DocumentaryGroundbreaking Harlem filmmaker St. Clair Bourne died Saturday in a New York hospital after an operation to remove a brain tumor. He was 64.Bourne’s blend of artistic vision and activism led him to an unconventional and sometimes controversial career, which included a string of acclaimed documentaries highlighting the African-American experience.

Born in Harlem in 1943, Bourne attended Georgetown University in the 1960s, buthegot kicked out of school after being arrested at an off-campus sit-in.

He then joined the Peace Corps and almost single-handedly resurrected a fading newspaper, El Comeno, in Lima.

Bourne later returned to college, graduating from Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism and political science.

In 1971, Bourne was tapped as a producer for “Black Journal” – the nation’s first black-oriented public affairs show. But the restless filmmaker soon left to found his own production company, Chamba, which he led until his death.

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At the time of his death, Bourne was working on a documentary about veteran Memphis-based civil rights photographer Ernest Withers, who died in October at age 85.

Bourne is survived by a sister, Judith Bourne, a lawyer in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

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