|Died||February 23, 2011 (aged 94)|
Willis was born on June 10, 1916 in Washington, DC to Tiney Willis and Charles E. Smith. He was the brother of Ederson, Julia, Thelma, William, Evelyn and Clayton. In the 1930s, he met writer Langston Hughes and Marxist philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya which prompted him to devote his life to socialist reform. In the 1950s he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Lillian.
Early life and education
In 1955, he produced, directed, filmed and edited the 16-millimeter film "Have You Sold Your Dozen Roses?" with San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Willis was also an early collaborator with Melvin Van Peebles around this time.
Television and documentary film career
In 1963, Willis was hired by San Francisco public television station KQED, which according to the East Bay Media Center, made him the first African American in broadcast journalism in California.
Additional films include "The Other America," a documentary on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "white backlash" speech at Stanford University in 1967. Willis also produced works on a wide range of subject matter from the AIDS crisis, psychedelic drugs to the 1970s California land grab.
He documented pivotal moments in Bay Area history, producing the first film exploration of the psychedelic drug experience and documenting the hippie revolution, the AIDS crisis and the 1970s California land grab.
After retiring from KQED in 1986, Willis continued to write a column for the Marxist publication, "News and Letters" under the pseudonym John Alan. He wrote his last column for the publication in 2008.
- Tucker, Jill (March 7, 2011). "Allen Willis, African American filmmaker, dies". San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco: Hearst Communications.
- "African-American filmmaker Allen Willis dies at 94". L.A. Watts Times. L.A. Watts Times: 3. March 10, 2011.
- http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Allen-Willis-African-American-filmmaker-dies-2389637.php www.sfgate.com