Tracing the Hairstons

New York City, New York | Film Feature

Documentary, History

Princess A. Hairston

1 Campaigns | New York, United States

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This campaign raised $30,150 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

137 supporters | followers

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Tracing the Hairstons reveals the struggles and triumphs of a family that is bound by a name through the worst atrocity in American History. From both the black and white lens, these Hairston’s tell stories of hardship, pain, bravery, plantation life, triumph and legacy.

In Partnership With

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

We are proud to have a female Producer/Director/Editor who is a Hairston herself as well as a female DP. Our film production represents people of color and will show diversity by including Hairston's from all over the United States. Support us by helping more women and people of color make movies.

The Story


This film series is slated to be a true representation of American History.

“At one time the Hairstons — or “Harstons” as the white side of the family pronounces it — were the Rockefellers of the old South. They owned not one but dozens of plantations, and thousands of slaves. The descendants of those slaves are now a huge family scattered across America. And yet they still have a powerful connection to each other, and to the plantations where their ancestors toiled” writes Vicki Mabrey a 60 Minutes II Correspondent.

This three-part documentary series will explore the journey of the first Hairstons to arrive in America in the early 1700s and will show how American slavery helped the Hairstons become one of the largest slave holding families in American history. Tracing the Hairstons narrative unfolds through a series of interviews from elderly to middle-aged Hairston’s. These Hairston’s share their complex lineage along with legendary stories of strength, pain, perseverance and legacy.

This film allows Hairston’s themselves to tell their legacy stories.

The National Hairston Clan formed in 1973, was created to bring white and black relatives together whose origins began in the nine main plantations. In the 1980s and 1990s the National Hairston Clan Reunions brought thousands of Hairstons together.

The New York Times, CBS’s 60 minutes II and many local news outlets in the southern states have covered stories about the Hairston family and their dynamic family reunions.


Documenting Hairstons from all corners of the world will help the viewer understand how big the Hairston dynasty was during the 1700s-1800s and why the family is still large to date. As many families where racial lines can be blurred, their is controversy inherent to the stories from the descendants of the slave owner and the slave. 


This film series gives first hand accounts of the Hairston's fascinating legacy through the Hairston's themselves. We understand why this dynamic family set it's self apart to be one of the biggest family names in America. The goal is for our audience to be engrossed in the time period of each story and to understand life from both the black and white lens. The intent for the film is to engage the audience through heartfelt stories and to encourage dialogue about the harsh facts of American history and how we as Americans can move forward through discussion about race.  Many American families have been affected by slavery's legacy along with it's burdens, our HOPE for this film series is to ease the historical divide between the races.

 We are also very honored to have prominent HISTORIANS lend their historical expertise to the film.

 Henry Wiencek

Henry Wiencek is an American journalist, historian and editor whose work has encompassed historically significant architecture, the Founding Fathers, various topics relating to slavery, and the Legocompany. In 1999, The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White, a biographical history which chronicles the racially intertwined Hairston clan of the noted Cooleemee Plantation House, won the National Book Critics Circle Award[1] for biography.

Wiencek has come to be particularly associated with his work on George Washington and slavery as a result of his book, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, which earned him the Los Angeles Times Book Award for history. Partly as a result of this book, Wiencek was named the first-ever Washington College Patrick Henry Fellow, inaugurating a program designed to provide writing fellowships for nationally prominent historians.[2][3]

 Paul Finkelman

Paul Finkelman is the author of more than 200 scholarly articles and more than forty books. He is a specialist on American legal history, U. S. Constitutional law, race and law, the law of American slavery, the First Amendment, religious liberty, the history of the Second Amendment, African American history, the American Civil War, and legal issues surrounding American sports.  His work has been cited four times by the United States Supreme Court, numerous other courts, and in many appellate briefs.  He has lectured on slavery and human trafficking and on human rights issues at the United Nations, throughout the United States, and in more than a dozen other countries.  In 2014 he was ranked as the fifth most cited legal historian in American legal scholarship in Brian Leiter’s “Top Ten Law Faculty (by area) in Scholarly Impact, 2009-2013.”  He was an expert witness in the famous Alabama Ten Commandments Monument Case (Glassroth v. Moore) and in the law suit over the ownership of Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run ball (Popov v. Hayashi). 

 Orville Vernon Burton

Orville Vernon Burton is a professor of history at Clemson University and Director of the Clemson CyberInstitute.[1] He was formerly Director of the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (CHASS) and professor of History and Sociology at the University of Illinois.[2] He is also a Senior Research Scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, where he is Associate Director for Humanities and Social Sciences. Burton is the author of more than a hundred articles and the author or editor of fourteen books, including In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina(subject of sessions at the Southern Historical Association and the Social Science History Association’s annual meetings; submitted for Pulitzer) and The Age of Lincoln (winner of the 2007 Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for non-fiction).[3]Recognized for his teaching, Burton was selected nationwide as the 1999 U.S. Research and Doctoral University Professor of the Year (presented by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education).[4] He received the American Historical Association’s Eugene Asher Distinguished Teacher Award for 2003.[5] 


This film series can be watched and understood by many American families who’s historical background share the same connection with the Hairston family.  


We hope to complete TRACING THE HAIRSTONS by fall of 2018.  We plan to submit Tracing the Hairstons at film festivals in 2018 after which time we plan to find the best distributer for the film series. We will make it available for educational institutions such as Schools and Universities to add to their curricula on American history.


Facebook is currently being used as a key tool for our social media strategy.

 Tracing the Hairstons is a production under Straight Path Pictures, a female owned company.



FROM THE HEART PRODUCTIONS believes in the Hairston family legacy.

We have partnered with From The Heart Productions, a 501c3 non-profit organization, so all your donations are tax deductible! Every donation counts!  SO THANK YOU.


 And since our friends, family & colleagues believe so deeply in Tracing the Hairstons, we’re ready with your help to expand our fundraising Goal for post-production. Check out this upgraded budget which will help us complete this film series. Here’s what happens when we go beyond our Production Goals: 


 If we receive $35k we can breathe easy. Production costs have a wicked way of creeping above budget. $35k allows us to shoot some reenactments for some of our stories.
 If we receive $45k we can proceed with offline editing and animation. This budget boost will allow us to focus on editing the stories and completing 2D/3D animation for the series.
 If we receive $60k+ we can finish offline editing, animation, sound design and music score.  We can purchase the necessary archival images and video needed for the project.  This budget will also push us to start final color & sound mixing.  This will help us stay on schedule with finishing Tracing the Hairstons film series by fall of 2018.   





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Cash Pledge

Costs $0


Costs $9,000

We need to travel to several states to reach the Hairston's we need to complete this film series.


Costs $17,500

We need to pay our small crew to make the Hairston's look phenomenal. Filming great cinematic shots and recording amazing sound is necessary


Costs $1,500

We need to eat or we will not be effective.


Costs $2,000

- Sony FS7 super 35 camera - Sony A7SII camera equipment - Rode mic NTG 4 - G-Tech portable drives - LED Lights

About This Team

Our Team

Princess A. Hairston - Producer/Director/Editor

Princess A. Hairston is an editor/director/producer and founder of Straight Path Pictures.  She is one of the few female editors of color in film, television and advertising.  With a background in editing, Princess laid her roots as an assistant editor for nearly 8 years at a commercial post house. She has been editing in film and television for the past 6 years. Princess worked on the first two episodes of the emmy-nominated series ‘Capture’ with Mark Seliger. She was an editor on the documentary film 'Fresh Dressed', an official selection at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. She also edits commercials, webisodes, branded content, and short films with many top advertising agencies and production companies throughout New York City. She is directing her first feature-length documentary titled ‘Tracing the Hairstons’. She is also currently editing the documentary feature film ‘Little Sallie Walker’ directed by Marta Effinger-Crichlow.

Sheila Smith, Director of Photography

Sheila Smith, Director of Photography, is an award-winning Director of Photography and Steadicam operator. Sheila has operated on features including “Step Up 2” and “The Runner” with Nicholas Cage, and numerous documentaries including “The Legend of Shorty,” “Divine Trash” and Oscar-nominated “Spellbound”. On “The Wire,” “Veep” and “Covert Affairs,” Sheila operated as a day player. She was director of photography on many theatrical-release documentaries such as “The Last One, Aids Memorial Quilt” which aired on Showtime. Her Steadicam credits include the Colbert Report, national commercials and many independent features and shorts. In 2009, Sheila won the Women of Vision award from WIFV-DC and in 2000 the Director of Photography/Film DC Peer Award.


Additional Camera Operators

Arianna LaPenne - NYC/MD

Caleb Goodnight - NC/VA


Marianna LaFollette - Production Sound Recordist (Maryland, DC)

Thomas Hauser - Production Sound Recordist (Virginia, North Carolina)


Benjamin Chan - Production Sound Recordist (California)







Current Team