George C. Stoney

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George C. Stoney
BornGeorge Cashel Stoney
(1916-07-01)July 1, 1916
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.
Died July 12, 2012(2012-07-12) (aged 96)
New York, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation filmmaker, educator
Known for documentary film, public-access television

George Cashel Stoney (July 1, 1916 July 12, 2012) was an American documentary filmmaker, an educator, and the "father of public-access television." Among his films were All My Babies (1953), How the Myth Was Made (1979) and The Uprising of '34 (1995). All My Babies was entered into the National Film Registry in 2002. [1] [2] Stoney's life and work were the subject of a Festschrift volume of the journal Wide Angle in 1999. [3]

Documentary film nonfictional motion picture

A documentary film is a nonfictional motion picture intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction, education, or maintaining a historical record. "Documentary" has been described as a "filmmaking practice, a cinematic tradition, and mode of audience reception" that is continually evolving and is without clear boundaries. Documentary films were originally called 'actuality' films and were only a minute or less in length. Over time documentaries have evolved to be longer in length and to include more categories, such as educational, observational, and even 'docufiction'. Documentaries are also educational and often used in schools to teach various principles. Social media platforms such as YouTube, have allowed documentary films to improve the ways the films are distributed and able to educate and broaden the reach of people who receive the information.

Public-access television is traditionally a form of non-commercial mass media where the general public can create content television programming which is narrowcast through cable TV specialty channels. Public-access television was created in the United States between 1969 and 1971 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under Chairman Dean Burch, based on pioneering work and advocacy of George Stoney, Red Burns, and Sidney Dean.

<i>All My Babies</i> 1953 film by George C. Stoney

All My Babies: A Midwife's Own Story is a 1953 educational film written, directed and produced by George C. Stoney which was used to educate midwives in the Southern United States and promote greater cooperation between midwifery and the modern health system. It was produced by the Georgia Department of Public Health. The film follows Mary Francis Hill Coley (1900–66) an African American midwife from Albany, Georgia who helped deliver over 3,000 babies in the middle part of the 20th century.


Early Life

George Cashel Stoney was born in 1916 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. [4] He studied English and History at the University of North Carolina and graduated in 1937. Later studying at Balliol College in Oxford, and received a Film in Education Certificate from the University of London. He worked at the Henry Street Settlement House on the Lower East Side of NYC in 1938, as a field research assistant for Gunnar Myrdal and Ralph Bunche's on their publication An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy . He was also a publicist for the Farm Security Administration covering the plight of tenant farmers until he was drafted in 1942. Throughout this time he also wrote freelance articles for many newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times , The New Republic , Raleigh News and Observer and the Survey Graphic. He served as a photo intelligence officer in World War II. [5]

Winston-Salem, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Winston-Salem is a city in and the county seat of Forsyth County, North Carolina, United States. With a 2019 estimated population of 251,907 it is the second largest municipality in the Piedmont Triad region, the fifth most populous city in North Carolina, and the eighty-ninth most populous city in the United States. With a metropolitan population of 676,673 it is the fourth largest metropolitan area in North Carolina and is expected to keep that fourth spot for many more years. Winston-Salem is home to the tallest office building in the region, 100 North Main Street, formerly the Wachovia Building and now known locally as the Wells Fargo Center.

North Carolina State of the United States of America

North Carolina is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west, Virginia to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. North Carolina is the 28th-most extensive and the 9th-most populous of the U.S. states. The state is divided into 100 counties. The capital is Raleigh, which along with Durham and Chapel Hill is home to the largest research park in the United States. The most populous municipality is Charlotte, which is the second-largest banking center in the United States after New York City.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), also known as UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, or simply Carolina is a public research university in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It is the flagship of the 17 campuses of the University of North Carolina system. After being chartered in 1789, the university first began enrolling students in 1795, which also allows it to be one of three schools to claim the title of the oldest public university in the United States. Among the claimants, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the only one to have held classes and graduated students as a public university in the eighteenth century.

Film Career

In 1946, Stoney joined the Southern Educational Film Service, writing and directing government education films for their constituents. Shooting in North Carolina, he worked on Mr. Williams Wakes up in 1944, and Tar Heel Family in 1951 under the company. He went on to create films for the Association of Medical Colleges and the North Carolina Film Board. In 1953, Stoney worked with the Association of Medical Colleges to write, direct and produce All My Babies: A Midwife's Own Story . The film follows Mary Francis Hill Coley an African American midwife as she attends to her clients and work with doctors and nurses within the medical establishment to promote education and cooperation within the modern medical field. The film received numerous awards and was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2002 by the Library of Congress. [6] [5]

Mary Francis Hill Coley was an American lay midwife who is best known for being featured in a documentary film used to train midwives.

National Film Registry selection of films for preservation in the US Library of Congress

The National Film Registry (NFR) is the United States National Film Preservation Board's (NFPB) selection of films deserving of preservation. The NFPB, established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, was reauthorized by acts of Congress in 1992, 1996, 2005, and again in October 2008. The NFPB's mission, to which the NFR contributes, is to ensure the survival, conservation, and increased public availability of America's film heritage. The 1996 law also created the non-profit National Film Preservation Foundation which, although affiliated with the NFPB, raises money from the private sector.

Library of Congress (de facto) national library of the United States of America

The Library of Congress (LOC) is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress and is the de facto national library of the United States. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The Library is housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; it also maintains the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. The Library's functions are overseen by the Librarian of Congress, and its buildings are maintained by the Architect of the Capitol. The Library of Congress has claimed to be the largest library in the world. Its "collections are universal, not limited by subject, format, or national boundary, and include research materials from all parts of the world and in more than 450 languages."

In the late 1960s, Stoney founded his own production company, George C. Stoney Associates, and taught at Columbia University, Stanford University (1965–67), and became a professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in 1971. He was an emeritus professor at NYU until his death. [5] He directed the Challenge for Change project, a socially active documentary production wing of the National Film Board of Canada from 1968-70. [7] After working with Red Burns on the Challenge for a Change, the pair founded the Alternate Media Center in 1972, which trained citizens in the tools of video production for a brand new medium, Public-access television. [8] An early advocate of democratic media, Stoney is often cited as being the "father of public-access television." With his work in public-access television, Stoney sought to democratize of voices recorded on an audiovisual medium by sharing authority through community engagement. [5]

Columbia University Private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

Stanford University private research university located in Stanford, California, United States

Leland Stanford Junior University is a private research university in Stanford, California. Stanford is known for its academic strength, wealth, proximity to Silicon Valley, and ranking as one of the world's top universities.

New York University private research university in New York, NY, United States

New York University (NYU) is a private research university originally founded in New York City but now with campuses and locations throughout the world. Founded in 1831, NYU's historical campus is in Greenwich Village, New York City. As a global university, students can graduate from its degree-granting campuses in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai, as well as study at its 12 academic centers in Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Washington, D.C.

In 1995, Stoney directed The Uprising of '34 about the General Textile Strike in 1934. For the film's production, over 300 hours of interviews from former mill workers, their children and grandchildren, labor organizers, mill owners, and others who experienced or were affected by the strikes. [9] [5]

Legacy and Death

Stoney was an active member of the Board of Directors for the Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) and the Alliance for Community Media (ACM). Each year, the ACM presents "The George Stoney Award" to an organization or individual who has made an outstanding contribution to championing the growth and experience of humanistic community communications.

Manhattan Neighborhood Network

Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN), the country’s largest community media center, is a non-profit organization that broadcasts programming on five public-access television cable TV stations in Manhattan, New York City. MNN operates two community media centers – in midtown Manhattan and East Harlem – and provides education, equipment, facilities, and programs to community producers and organizations who want to create programming to air on one of MNN's five channels. In 2016, MNN will post more than 5,000 enrollments in their media classes, making one of the largest media education institutions in New York City.

The Alliance for Community Media (ACM), is an educational, advocacy and lobbying organization in the United States which represents Public, educational, and government access (PEG) cable TV organizations and Community media centers throughout the country. The ACM was founded in 1976 as the National Federation of Local Cable Programmers (NFLCP), with the stated mission to “protect and increase freedom of expression, diversity of ideas and community communication through electronic media”. The mission statement has evolved over the years to “Promoting civic engagement through community media”. The ACM works to protect the interests of community media centers and those who use PEG facilities and equipment to promote localism and diversity in programming through cable television and the Internet.

He died peacefully at the age of 96 at his home in New York City. [1] [10] [11]


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  1. 1 2 Vitello, Paul (July 14, 2012). "George C. Stoney, Documentary Filmmaker, Dies at 96". The New York Times.
  2. "Local Public Access TV Under Attack From Trio of Congressional Bills". Democracy Now!. September 30, 2005. Archived from the original on 2006-12-06.
  3. Abrash, Barbara; Jackson, Lynne; Mertes, Cara, eds. (March 1999). "George Stoney Festschrift". Wide Angle. 21 (2).
  4. Alexander, Geoff (2012). "George C. Stoney". Academic Film Archive of North America.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "George Stoney: Carolina Roots | Southern Oral History Program". Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  6. Vitello, Paul. "George C. Stoney, Documentarian, Dies at 96" . Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  7. Weldon, Carolyne (16 July 2012). "Tribute to Challenge for Change Director George C. Stoney". National Film Board of Canada . Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  8. "History of ITP". New York University.
  9. "The Uprising of '34 Collection". Retrieved 2018-08-10.
  10. Announcement on the ACM Facebook page by board chair Deb Rogers
  11. Posting to the ACM (non-public) listserv by Sue Buske, long time friend of George.

Further reading