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All My Babies: A Midwife's Own Story

by George C. Stoney
black & white, 79 min, 1952/1949

When George C. Stoney was a boy delivering newspapers, he was curious about the black women with black satchels he would spot occasionally on the streets of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, before dawn. Later he learned these early risers were midwives.

This is a training film about midwifery which transcends the form. It was selected by the Library of Congress for placement on the National Film Registry in 2002 as "a culturally, historically and artistically significant work."

All My Babies was written, produced and directed by Stoney in collaboration with the featured midwife, Mrs. Mary Francis Hill Coley, as well as with local public health doctors and nurses. Recorded on location in Albany, Georgia, it shows the preparation for and home delivery of healthy babies in both relatively good and bad rural conditions among African American families at that time. The film is not only a profound portrait of Miss Mary as she was affectionately and respectfully known, but also is a documentary record of the actual living conditions of her patients.

Always interested in the effects a film has on the filmed and filmers, Stoney is amused to report everyone on the crew had babies after making this one. In addition, teamed with David Bagnall, Stoney returned to Georgia in 2007 to record a "reunion" in which over 150 people who had been helped into the world by Mrs. Coley participated. That reunion is now a new film-in-progress.

As a bonus, this DVD includes Palmour Street (1949), a dramatized, open-ended discussion of family relations, which Stoney co-directed on location in Gainesville, Georgia, for the Georgia Department of Public Health. Palmour Street is in Gainesville, Georgia. The people who live on it worked hard to make this picture so that they and all of us might know more about ourselves and our children. An early example of films for lay education sponsored by the Mental Health Division of the U.S. Public Health Service, it soon found an audience beyond the African American community for which it was designed.


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