John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk

Director: St. Clair Bourne
Screenwriters: Lou Potter

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk is a fascinating history of African people that challenges many of our contemporary presumptions about world and national history, as told by a self-taught historian who was born into sharecropping. It is also, and perhaps most especially, an engrossing biography of a formidable thinker and scholar whom most people have probably never heard of. As fashioned by veteran documentarist St. Clair Bourne and narrated by Wesley Snipes, who also conceived and executive-produced the film, John Henrik Clarke is a stroll through five thousand years of African history as seen through the eyes of a man who has spent his life studying, revising, and debunking the traditional body of knowledge that all of us have been taught as truth.

Compelling and stimulating, the film is also a lesson about the history of African peoples. For whether or not one agrees with all of Clarke’s passionate Afrocentric history, it is both very worth listening to and extremely well told. Adding to its power is the place that Clarke himself has had in this history, including his role as an advisor to Kwame Nkrumah and a confidant and friend to Malcolm X.

Although the filmmakers have gathered exceptional and rare archival footage and still photos covering a range of subjects and history, the centerpiece of this work is Clarke’s own voice and vision. It is unfortunate that his intelligence and knowledge have not been more generally available until now. One has to applaud the efforts of the filmmakers for offering us the wisdom and insight of a truly important thinker and remarkable man.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details


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