Synopsis by Josh Ralske
Documentarian St. Claire Bourne takes a close-up look at author and historian John Henrik Clarke, who, on camera for much of the film, bounces back and forth between a description of his own personal history, and his views on the history of Africa and of Pan-Africanism. His points are backed up by old newsreel footage, and by images of artwork depicting Africans and their civilization over the centuries. Actor Wesley Snipes executive produced the film and serves as a narrator. John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk was made in 1996, with Clarke suffering from glaucoma, barely able to see as he gives his sweeping account. He talks about his own upbringing, and his growing interest in Pan-Africanism, the failures of the civil rights movement and the Black Power movement, his close friendship with Malcolm X, and his critical assessment of Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March. He also gives a primer on the history of African civilization, and argues that no conquering or colonizing power ever "brought civilization" to Africa, but rather these nations destroyed what civilization they didn't understand, and brought many of Africa's ideas back to their bases in ancient Greece and Rome. He also describes how Black Africans were methodically removed from the history of the civilization of the Nile. He details how leaders like Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Ghanaian Kwame Nkrumah spread the ideas of Pan-Africanism throughout the U.S. and the world. John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk was shown at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, and won the Best Documentary award at the 1997 UrbanWorld Film Festival. Clarke died of a heart attack in 1998.