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Making The Film

Learned it in Back Days and Kept It: A Portrait of Lucreaty

Film by Peggy Bulger, Dan Kossoff
Produced by Dan Kossoff, Peggy Bulger
Cinematographer: Richard Kahn with additional cinematography by Rick Turnbaugh and Dan Kossoff
Sound: Rob Thomas
Editing: Meg Grimes
Copyright: 1981, Florida Folklife Program
28 minutes, Color
Original format: Film: 16mm, 1981
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Home streaming only. For other permissions apply to Peggy Bulger, Dan Kossoff or to the distributor, Florida Folklife Program.


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Lucreaty Clark (1903 - 1986) was one of sixteen children born to a family in rural Jefferson County, Florida. Her grandparents had been slaves on the Rindell plantation, outside of Monticello. After emancipation, her parents remained as tenant farmers on the cotton plantation. In the early twentieth century, the area was still part of the system of plantations, small farms, and cotton production. In addition to many other rural life skills, Clark learned to make white oak baskets from her parents and in-laws—who in turn had learned from their parents. Long after the plantations were gone, she continued to fashion the baskets in the way she had learned from her family.

Making a basket is complex and time-consuming. The process of making oak splints starts with cutting down a tree, then removing limbs, peeling the bark, splitting the tree in quarters or eighths, and using a froe and mallet to split the wood into smaller sections. The basketmaker then splits the splints into the right thickness using a knife and hands, and scrapes them smooth. Some basketmakers estimate that it takes fifty hours to make a medium-sized basket.

Aside from her skills as an accomplished basket maker, Clark embraced a wide repertoire of traditional African American songs, games and folk knowledge essential to rural life. She was a remarkable representative of an era that seems very far away today. In 1985 She was awarded the Florida Folk Heritage Award. This film was made in 1981, five years before her death.


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