Collection Number: 0143

Span Dates: 1968-1978

Creator: Dennis Hicks

Extent: 40 Reels

Links: Dennis Hicks Educational Online Materials and Dennis Hicks L.A. Newsreel Online Materials

Subject(s): Black Panthers ; Los Angeles Black Panther Party ; LA Newsreels ; civil rights ; African Americans ; race relations ; activists ; political movements ; racism ; politics ; social issues ; political issues ; 1960s ; segregation ; integration ; racial identity ; sexual identity ; educational films ; filmstrips ; teenagers ; Jerry Rubin ; learning exercises ; study guides ; community involvement ; sexism ; stereotypes ; repression ; San Francisco ; California ; Bobby Seale ; rally ; rallies ; demonstrations ; Elaine Masai ; UCLA ; Cal State ; Nossa Terra ; Huey Newton ; Tom Hayden ; police officers ; cops ; South Central ; Watts ; raids ; LAPD ; Los Angeles Police Department ; David Hilliard ; speeches ; 1970s


Dennis Hicks received his MFA in painting from the University of Southern California amid the political and cultural chaos of 1968: half a million American soldiers still fought in Vietnam; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated within two months of each other; and an inept Democratic administration lost the presidency to Richard Nixon. Hicks felt compelled to leave the isolation of his artist’s studio to co-create a film collective, Los Angeles Newsreel, which distributed (and led discussions at the screenings of) documentaries –– a rare source of news with a radical point of view. Along with political organizing, Hicks oversaw the production of a film about the Los Angeles Black Panther Party. Repression was never released, but the rough-cut available here remains a vivid reminder of the oppression of those times. In 1971, Los Angeles Newsreel intentionally disbanded to take working class jobs. Hicks joined the assembly line at General Motors in South Gate, California.

In 1974, Hicks changed gears and became a teacher at Canfield/Crescent Heights Community School. The communities of these two elementary schools, 90% white and black respectively, had fought to be allowed to integrate at a time when school integration was hotly contested. Within a few years, he began producing films, filmstrips, slide shows and television shows which illuminated the educational and social advantages connected to racial desegregation. The filmstrips he produced (some with Dave Bell Associates) for teacher training and community development are included in this collection, as is one of the slide shows Hicks developed for the Los Angeles County School District: Housing and School Integration. Also available is one of the programs he produced for the public television show “28 Tonight” on immigration and bilingual education. This collection culminates with Coming of Age, an award-winning documentary about teenagers dealing with racial and sexual identity produced by Hicks and directed by Josh Hanig in 1983.

Hicks subsequently became a psychotherapist and had a private practice for 25 years. In 2007, he published a novel, Camera Obscura, a mystery-thriller involving the Catholic Church. In 2012, he retired in order to give full attention to writing. His memoir, Something’s Happening Here: A Memoir of the 60s, hauntingly evokes the period from 1964-1971. Another novel, Double Crossing America: A Memoir of 1866-67, fictionalizes a memoir by one of his 19th century ancestors. (Available in the fall of 2017) Information can be found at Dennis Hicks’ personal website DENNISHICKS.NET

Citation: Dennis Hicks Collection, Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive, University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

Location: USC Hefner Archive

Access: Available online, by appointment or in some cases digital scans for a fee.