Anthony Crawford was one of the wealthiest men in Abbeville, South Carolina, with over 400 acres of land; his farm was successful and self-sustained. Crawford employed the Black community. Anthony Crawford was murdered on October 21,1916, by a mob of over 200 white men, and then they lynched him. HOBO films documentary Crawford: The Man the South Forgot follows the 14-year journey of his great-granddaughter Doria Dee Johnson as she advocates for the town to acknowledge the lynching and to create a memorial in her grandfather’s name. BGN spoke with HOBO Films Head of Development, editor/producer Tiffany Jackman, about her process in uncovering this powerful story.
How did you find this story?
I’ve been working with HOBO films for about a year on this show called The System, which is about how minority teens are targeted for the same things that their white counterparts do, but minority kids are placed in the prison system. Howard Bowler, who owns HOBO films, had all of this footage on a hard drive from 2002. He really wanted the film to be made, so he asked me to take a look at the footage and see if we could finish this story.
It was hours and hours of footage. I researched more of the story, and it was like looking at gold. It’s such a rich story. This family deserves to have this story out there. That’s what drew me in. I had the urge to finish it for Doria and the family.
Living with the hours of footage of this brutal lynching must have been traumatizing. How long did you work on this project?
About a year or so. The main thing was I had to find the story. Within hours and hours of footage, there were so many storylines that I could have gone down. Like, the need for reparations, even if it’s not for America in general, just for this one family. There were so many different angles. But the storyline that I was able to craft a complete arc out of was the need for the town to recognize this man, what he contributed to the town, and how great of a person he was.
How were you able to nourish yourself while dealing with this brutal content?
Wow. Well, in terms of like, nourishing myself… Because a lot of it was heavy, some days I’d just have to take a break. I’d work on something fun, like shooting a music video. Sometimes you have to step away because it’s… a lot, you know. To think that it’s still… I mean to compare that with everything that is still going on in the world right now in America… it’s a lot. Sometimes I just needed to take a walk.
Walking is good for that. It’s medicine.
Yes, it is. Even after the project was over, I was like, “I need to do a comedy now.”
It’s incredible how in less than 30 minutes this documentary engages the audience while providing solid proof of why the wealth gap between Black people and white people in America exists. Not only are you a gifted producer, you’re a talented editor! Did you learn your editing skills at NYU or while working in advertising?
I think it’s a combination of both. NYU taught me about storytelling, how to craft a story, how to find your protagonist and have them fight for something throughout the film. Doria was such a strong protagonist. The audience wants to come alongside her as she’s trying to do what she needs to do. That skill comes from my film training. Now, in terms of getting a story into a succinct piece, that comes from advertising. It was beaten into me that I needed to get a story told in 30 seconds. So, to try to get something told in like 30 seconds, and now I have like a 30 minute film, that’s a lifetime in my book.
After being in relationship with this footage for all that time while editing, what was it like to go to Abbeville to get B roll? Had you been to South Carolina before?
I’d never been there before. I grew up in Atlanta, but my family that was in America was in New York so I’m pretty sure I drove past it but it never stopped in Abbeville. I felt like I knew the town because of all the footage and hearing all the stories, but never been there. I was a little… I don’t know. I would say, uneasy. I didn’t know what to expect when I went down there. But when I went down there, everybody was lovely. Like, it was like your typical “Southern hospitality.” Everybody’s so sweet and stuff. But at the same time, I will say, I would only keep them at arm’s distance. And the reason is because, like, everybody’s so sweet, but then at the same time, in the center of town, is this huge Confederate monument. Like the whole town is centered around this huge Confederate monument. So I’m like, okay, I really want to like you, but you’re okay with this. It’s a historic town, and that’s the whole point of the movie. They pride themselves on the fact that they have all these colonial type houses, and this is that town where the Civil War actually started and where it ended. This town is this giant landmark, right, but yet they don’t want to talk about Anthony Crawford. They want this very idealized Southern town with the plantation houses, beautiful, right? Yeah, but there’s something under there that I didn’t trust, and I wanted to be back at my hotel by a certain time.
Well, I think that’s important energetically, particularly because Anthony Crawford ran for his life and then was dragged and beaten to death through the center of town. To be a Black woman telling that story — thank you for doing the emotional labor, holding the space, and bearing witness. This is documentation we’ll have forever.
I appreciate that.
How does Anthony Crawford’s story of his success as a business owner 100 years ago impact you as a Black female producer today?
It was possible for Black people to be successful. He did it all on his own. There’s been some debate whether he was born into slavery or born right after slavery ended, but either way, he came from very humble beginnings and was able to amass so much wealth, and that wealth could have been passed down to his family. If he could come from that, then what excuse do I have to not work hard and get to where I need to be?
During that time, the Black community invested in Anthony Crawford’s talent and he thrived. What can we do, as your community, to support HOBO Films?
Watch the film. We want to get it out to as many people as possible. Let the industry know that films like these are out there and that there are people who want to see them. If you stream and support the show, that gives us the ability to make more content. I want more Black people, people of color in general just to watch this and realize, hey, you can do something. Look at where he came from and did something with himself. Take pride in your past.
HOBO Films documentary Crawford: The Man the South Forgot currently streaming on on Kweli-TV a Black female-owned streaming service
Link to film:
Link to HOBO Audio website: https://www.hoboaudio.com
HOBO films social media: https://www.facebook.com/HOBO-FILMS-101160681668765/
Link to kweli-tv
What's Your Reaction?
Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.