Sources & Further Reading

Major Archives

George P. Johnson Negro Film Collection

http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf5s2006kz/

The George P. Johnson Negro Film Collection is part of UCLA’s Special Collections at the UCLA Young E. Research Library. The collection that was donated to UCLA contains about 71 boxes with material related to African Americans in the U.S. film industry. George Perry Johnson (1885-1977) was a writer, producer and distributor for the Lincoln Motion Picture Company, which he founded with his brother, renowned Black actor Noble Johnson. He was also a founder and manager of the Pacific Coast News Bureau that disseminated Negro news of national importance (1923-1927).

Some of the items in the collection include: Production documents from Johnson’s company, documents related to Noble Johnson, newspaper and magazine clippings collected by George P. Johnson, from many years and many films. The focus of these materials include those that relate to early Black films, early Black film companies, films with Black casts, as well as other notable Black figures (musicians, sports figures, entertainers, etc.) Jotting down notes and keeping meticulous records of any instances he heard of that had anything to do with black film, Johnson curated this extensive archival resource to be used for many years to come.

Our team spent two sessions at UCLA Archives and Special Collections, personally going through the boxes of George P. Johnson’s collection by hand. We noted any mentions of films, actors/actresses, production companies, directors, etc. that fit under our criteria of “race film” and we entered such information in our database. We also took photos of any primary sources within the collection that we thought were significant to add to our project.

Mayme Clayton Library and Museum

 http://www.claytonmuseum.org/collections

The Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum (MCLM) houses the Mayme Agnew Clayton Collection of African-American History and Culture, which contains over two million rare books, films, documents, photographs, artifacts, and works of art related to the history and culture of African Americans in the United States. It is one of the most important and extensive collections chronicling the history and culture of Americans of African descent in the United States of America. The collection has a special focus on Southern California and the American West. More specifically, the collection is split into various categories: the Manuscripts and Archives Collection, the Rare Books Collection, The Film and Recorded Sound Archives, the Photographs and Prints Collection, and the Arts and Artifacts collection.

Perhaps the most relevant to our project’s focus is the collection’s Film and Recorded Sound Archives. It contains an array of rare moving images, films, and recorded sound documenting the history and culture of African Americans. The film archive contains over 700 film titles from 1916 in 16mm, 35mm, VHS, and DVD formats. Rich in pre-1959 black films, MCLM’s Film and Recorded Sound Archives features rare silent reels and films by Oscar Micheaux, considered America’s preeminent early independent African-American filmmaker. These materials are now held at the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

The Black Film Center/ Archive, Indiana University at Bloomington

http://www.indiana.edu/~bfca/home/

Established in 1981, the Black Film Center/Archive promotes the understanding of the history, aesthetics, theory, and impact of Black film traditions. The first archival repository of its kind, it is dedicated to collecting, preserving and giving access to historical and culturally important films made by and about black people. The BFC/A also promotes and encourages filmmaking by independent black filmmakers.  With intention to promote scholarship and learning on black film, it serves as an open resource for academics and the general public.

Our team, specifically, had the chance to chat with Brian Graney, Senior Archivist and Head of Public and Technology Services of the BFC/A. He gave us many useful insights, such as his own operating definition of “race film” and what factors we should consider while developing our own database and project.

Pearl Bowser Collection at the Smithsonian

Renowned director, producer, author, and archivist, Pearl Bowser is the known for writing a pivotal book on the first ten years of famous African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux’s amazing career. By doing so, she is credited for helping to rediscover some of Micheaux’s rare surviving films that make up a considerable part of our database and research. Bowser also founded African Diaspora Images, which is a collection oral and visual histories that document the history and tradition behind African-American filmmaking. She has recently donated her collection to The Smithsonian Institution.

Umbra: Search African American History

https://www.umbrasearch.org/

This web-based search portal, hosted at the University of Minnesota, aggregates collections relevant to African-American history from many archives, libraries, and museums. Umbra started as an African American performing-arts archive, and while its purview has now expanded well beyond that, we found it to be an excellent source for film- and theater-related materials from the race film industry.

The Blues, Black Vaudeville, and the Silver Screen, 1912-1930s

http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/douglass/index.php

This archival collection, held at the Middle Georgia Archives and hosted by the Digital Library of Georgia, is included within Umbra but deserves special mention for the range and depth of its materials. The collection contains a wide range of business materials, including lobby cards, correspondence, and financial documents, related to Macon, Georgia’s Douglass Theatre, which specialized in theatrical and cinematic entertainment for African American audiences.

Other Major Archives

Central Secondary Sources

Bowser, Pearl, Jane Marie Gaines and Charles Musser. Oscar Micheaux and His Circle: African-American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

This collection of 14 essays examines Oscar Micheaux, one of the most prolific and influential African American filmmakers of the Silent, as well as his surviving films, some of his fellow producers of race films, and the cultural activities that surrounded and sustained his work. This rich collection also contends with the relationship between black film and the stage as well as with the black press. It includes extensive filmographies that were instrumental to our project.

Caddoo, Cara. Envisioning Freedom : Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life, 2014.

In Envisioning Freedom historian Cara Caddoo examines early black film exhibition from the 1890s through early 1920s. Her work charts exhibition of very early films in churches, lodges and schools, as well as the emergence of a race film industry. She argues that film played a significant role in black Americans development of a collective identity and culture of freedom. Caddoo’s book provided many of the sources on the earliest African American films and production companies for our project.

Cripps, Thomas. Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900-42. Cary: Oxford University Press, 1977.

In Slow Fade to Black Thomas Cripps traces the representations of black Americans in films from 1900 to 1940. Through the lens of film he traces shifting social attitudes about race. Cripps’ book looks at films beyond the scope of this project, however the book was a useful resource for our team in identifying race film titles, production companies and people involved in these films.

Field, Allyson Nadia. Uplift Cinema: The Emergence of African American Film and the Possibility of Black Modernity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.

In Uplift Cinema, Allyson Nadia Field examines the legacy of early African American filmmaking which emphasized economic self-sufficiency, education, and respectability as the keys to African American racial uplift. Field’s innovative use of archival film ephemera to study non-extent films influenced the approach our team’s approach to films in this which were not limited to extent films.

Gaines, Jane. Fire and Desire: Mixed-Race Movies in the Silent Era. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Jane Gaines examines the black independent film movement during the silent era. Her work looks deeply at key figures including Oscar Micheaux and George P. Johnson. Gaines uses these films to explore the cinematic constitution of self and other. Fire and Desire contends critically with meaning of the category of “race fims” in a productive manner for our project.

Kahana, Jonathan. The Documentary Film Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

This edited collection is an extensive overview of documentary film with over 100 articles on myriad topics. It includes an essay by Pear Browser on “Pioneers of Black Documentary Film” (1999) that provided our team with detailed information regarding her process of researching early black filmmaking. Brower’s discussion of the Peter P. Jones Photoplay Company provided our team with detailed information regarding an influential early production company and its key films and figures.

Klotman, Phyllis R. Frame by Frame: A Black Filmography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979.

Phyllis Klotman offers one of the earliest filmographies charting the roles of black Americans in film from 1900 to 1977. It includes 3,000 film items. The listed films include those with black themes or subject matter (even if no black actors appeared in them); films featuring substantial participation by black persons as writers, actors, producers, directors, musicians, and consultants; as well as films in which black actors appear. Our team culled the information on the race films of the silent era that are included in this filmography.

Lupack, Barbara. Richard E. Norman and Race Filmmaking. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.

Richard E. Norman, a southern white filmmaker, is a key race filmmaker in this period. This book traces Norman’s biography as well as his production of feature-length race pictures that helped to define early race filmmaking. Lupack draws on Norman’s personal and professional correspondence, detailed distribution records, and original shooting scripts. While focused on Norman, Lupack’s book provided detailed information for our project on his films as well of those of his contemporaries.

Petersen, Christina. “The ‘Reol’ Story: Race Authorship and Consciousness in Robert Levy’s Reol Productions, 1921–1926.” Film History: An International Journal 20, no. 3 (2008): 308–24.

In this article Christina Peterson examines Reol Productions and its founder Robert Levy, a Jewish entrepreneur. Reol Productions was one of the earliest race film producers and made a number of films featuring well-known actors from the Lafayette company and adaptations by noted race authors. Peterson focuses on Levy’s medial position with particular attention to The Call of His People (1921). This paper provided our team with much of the information on this important production company, as well as its films and key figures.

Regester, Charlene.  African American Actresses the Struggle for Visibility, 1900-1960. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

Charlene Regester profiles nine black American actresses between 1900 and 1960. Deep examinations of these actresses allow for a closer look at racial politics, stardom and the contributions of black women to American cinema. Our team used her profile of Madame Sul-Te-Wan in Birth of a Nation (1915) to develop her entry in our database.

Reid, Mark. Redefining Black Film. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Mark Reid’s Redefining Black Film makes an important contribution to the field by critically reexamining African American film. He distinguishes between films controlled by blacks and films that utilize black talent, but are controlled by whites. Reid’s discussion of black independent films—defined as films that focus on the black community and that are written, directed, produced, and distributed by blacks—ranges from the earliest black involvement at the turn of the century up through the civil rights movement of the Sixties and the recent resurgence of feminism in black cultural production. Reid’s work on defining black film was influential in our team’s work on defining race film and contributed detailed information regarding a number of early films to our database.

Richards, Larry. African American Films through 1959 : A Comprehensive, Illustrated Filmography. Jefferson  N.C.: McFarland, 1998.

Larry Richard’s filmography details films with a predominantly or entirely African American cast or that were about African Americans. Each entry includes various information about each film like the cast and credits, year of release, studio, distributor, type of film (feature, short or documentary) and other production details. Most entries also have a brief synopsis of the film or contemporary reviews of it. Appendices of the filmography include film credits for over 1,850 actors and actresses, along with a listing of film companies. Our team used this filmography in reference and entered the titles and information of pre-1930 race films into our own database. After getting preliminary titles/information from this filmography, we searched for primary sources that mentioned our films to further solidify and credit our film entries.

Robinson, Cedric. Forgeries of Memory and Meaning: Blacks and the Regimes of Race in American Theater and Film Before World War II. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

Through his analysis of theater and film of the early twentieth century, Cedric J. Robinson’s book offers a new perspective of race in America by arguing that the economic, political, and cultural forces present in the eras of silent film and the early “talkies” firmly cemented the limited representations of African Americans. Robinson parallels the growth of racial beliefs and capitalism, explaining how the demand of American commerce created successive racial regimes that were publicized in mass media like the theater and motion pictures. Robinson also analyzes black reaction and resistance to these practices such as how Oscar Micheaux transcended uplift films to create explicitly political critiques of the American national myth.

Sampson, Henry. Blacks in Black and White : A Source Book on Black Films. 2nd ed. Metuchen  N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1995.

Henry Sampson’s work has remained a pioneering book in detailing all aspects of a unique era in the history of motion pictures―the time when U.S. films featuring an all-Black cast, produced and directed by Blacks, were shown primarily to Black audiences, in theatres many of which were owned and managed by Blacks. Sampson traces the history of the Black film industry, noting the activities of pioneer Black filmmakers and performers who have been rather ignored by film historians. The second edition includes significantly more information on Oscar Micheaux and other Black producers of the time.

Stewart, Jacqueline. Migrating to the Movies Cinema and Black Urban Modernity. Berkeley : University of California Press, 2005.

Stewart’s book richly illustrates many early films and illuminates black urban life in the period of the rise of cinema in American entertainment — a time that also coincided with Black migration from the South to the hopeful North. It analyzes African American migrations onto the screen, into the audience, and behind the camera, showing how African American urban populations and cinema shaped each other. Migrating to the Movies begins with the earliest cinematic representations of African Americans and concludes with the silent films of Oscar Micheaux and other early “race films” made for Black audiences, discussing some of the avenues in which African Americans took their place in the development of film as an art and a cultural institution.

Complete Bibliography

Books

AMS Production Group., and Brad Osborne. In the Shadow of Hollywood Race Movies & the Birth of Black Cinema. Dallas, TX : AMS Production Group, 2007.

Bernardi, Daniel. The Birth of Whiteness : Race and the Emergence of U.S. Cinema. New Brunswick  N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1996.

Bernstein, Matthew. Screening a Lynching : The Leo Frank Case on Film and Television. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2009.

Berry, Torriano. Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema. Lanham, Md. : Scarecrow Press, 2007.

Bogle, Donald. Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams : The Story of Black Hollywood. 1st ed. New York: One World Ballantine Books, 2005.

Bowser, Pearl. Oscar Micheaux and His Circle: African-American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

———. Writing Himself into History : Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films, and His Audiences. New Brunswick  N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

Butters, Gerald. Black Manhood on the Silent Screen. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002.

Caddoo, Cara. Envisioning Freedom : Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life, 2014.

Cripps, Thomas. Slow Fade to Black Negro in American Film, 1900-42. Cary: Oxford University Press, 1977. http://public.eblib.com/choice/PublicFullRecord.aspx?p=253377.

Cripps, Thomas. Black Film as Genre. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.

Diawara, Manthia. Black American Cinema. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Eakins, Thomas, and Gordon Hendricks. The Photographs of Thomas Eakins. Grossman Publishers, 1972.

Everett, Anna. Returning the Gaze: A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909-1949. Duke University Press, n.d.

Field, Allyson Nadia. Uplift Cinema: The Emergence of African American Film and the Possibility of Black Modernity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.

Gaines, Jane. Fire and Desire: Mixed-Race Movies in the Silent Era. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Gray, John. Blacks in Film and Television : A Pan-African Bibliography of Films, Filmmakers, and Performers. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Green, J. With a Crooked Stick : The Films of Oscar Micheaux. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.

Guerrero, Ed. Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film. Temple University Press, 2012. Temple University Press, 2012.

Harris, Keith M. Boys, Boyz, Bois : An Ethics of Black Masculinity in Film and Popular Media. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Kahana, Jonathan, ed. The Documentary Film Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Kisch, John, and Edward Mapp. A Separate Cinema: Fifty Years of Black-Cast Posters. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1992.

Klotman, Phyllis R. Frame by Frame. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979.

Klotman, Phyllis R. and Janet K. Cutler. Struggles for Representation : African American Documentary Film and Video. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

Lupack, Barbara. Richard E. Norman and Race Filmmaking. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.

Massood, Paula J. Black City Cinema: African American Urban Experiences in Film. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003.

Maurice, Alice. The Cinema and Its Shadow : Race and Technology in Early Cinema. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.  

McGilligan, Patrick. Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of America’s First Black Filmmaker. Harper Collins, 2007.

Noble, Peter. The Cinema and the Negro, 1905-1948,. [London]: [Sight and Sound], 1948.

———. The Negro in Films. New York: Arno Press, 1970.

Null, Gary. Black Hollywood : The Black Performer in Motion Pictures. 1st Carol Pub. Group ed. New York: Carol Pub. Group, 1990.

Regester, Charlene. Black Entertainers in African American Newspaper Articles. Jefferson N.C.: McFarland, 2002.

Regester, Charlene.  African American Actresses the Struggle for Visibility, 1900-1960. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=547023.

Reid, Mark. Redefining Black Film. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/heb.08138.

Richards, Larry. African American Films through 1959 : A Comprehensive, Illustrated Filmography. Jefferson  N.C.: McFarland, 1998.

Sampson, Henry. Blacks in Black and White : A Source Book on Black Films. 2nd ed. Metuchen  N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1995.

Shanachie Entertainment Corp., Northern Light Productions,;WGBH Educational Foundation,;WGBH (Television station : Boston, Mass.), Synergy Entertainment, and Bestor Cram. Midnight Ramble : Oscar Micheaux and the Story of Race Movies, 2009.

Stewart, Jacqueline. Migrating to the Movies Cinema and Black Urban Modernity. Berkeley : University of California Press, 2005.

Stewart, Jeffrey C. Paul Robeson: Artist and Citizen. Rutgers University Press, 1988.

Strausbaugh, John. Black like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult & Imitation in American Popular Culture. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2006.

Wallace, Michelle. “‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin before and after the Jim Crow Era.’” Drama Review 44, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 136–56.

Williams, Linda. Playing the Race Card : Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson. Princeton  N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Articles

Bauerlein, Mark. “Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois: The Origins of a Bitter Intellectual Battle.” Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 46, (2004-2005): 106-114.

Bernstein, Matthew, and Dana F. White. “‘Scratching Around’ in a ‘Fit of Insanity’: The Norman Film Manufacturing Company and the Race FIlm Business in the 1920.” Griffithiana 21, no. 62–63 (May 1998): 81–127.

—-. “Imitation of Life in a Segregated Atlanta: Its Promotion, Distribution and Reception.” Film History 19, no. 2 ( 2007): 152-178.

Butters, Jr., Gerald R. “From Homestead to Lynch Mob: Portrayals of Black Masculinity in Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates.” Journal for MultiMedia History, 3 (2000).

Gaines, Jane. “‘Fire and Desire: Race, Melodrama, and Oscar Micheaux.” Black American Cinema, 1993, 49–70.

Phillips, Michael. “A Rarity, Resurrected: An All-Black Film from the Silent Era.” Chicago Tribune  (May 7, 2015). Accessed April 14, 2016.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/movies/ct-bert-williams-lime-kiln-club-blackface-20150507-column.html.

Petersen, Christina. “The ‘Reol’ Story: Race Authorship and Consciousness in Robert Levy’s Reol Productions, 1921–1926.” Film History: An International Journal 20, no. 3 (2008): 308–24.

Regester, Charlene. “African American Extras in Hollywood during the 1920s and 1930s.” Film History 9, no. 1 (1997): 95–115.

Regester, Charlene. “African-American Writers and Pre-1950 Cinema” Literature/Film Quarterly 29, no. 3 (2001): 210-235.

Other Resources

“African American Film History.” Washington University Libraries Research Guide. Accessed April 14, 2016. http://libguides.wustl.edu/af-am-film.

“African Americans in Film and Television: A Bibliography of Materials in the UC Berkeley Libraries.” UC Berkeley Libraries. Accessed April 14, 2016. http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/AfricanAmBib.html.

“African-American Women in the Silent Film Industry – Women Film Pioneers Project.” Accessed April 14, 2016. https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/essay/african-american-women-in-the-silent-film-industry/.

“Black Film Research Online.” Accessed April 21, 2016. http://blackfilm.uchicago.edu/research_projects/spencer_williams.shtml.

“From Blackface to Blaxploitation: Representations of African Americans in Film – Duke Library Exhibits.” Accessed April 14, 2016. http://exhibits.library.duke.edu/exhibits/show/africanamericansinfilm/racefilms.

Jackson, Stephen L. “Beneath the Surface: An Examination of the Characterization of African-Americans in Submarine-Themed American Film.” PhD Dissertation, Salve Regina University (2015).

“Norman Studios | Preserving Jacksonville’s Silent Film Legacy.” Accessed April 14, 2016. http://www.normanstudios.org/.

“North Star: Film Resources on African American Religious History.” Accessed April 14, 2016. https://www.princeton.edu/~jweisenf/northstar/volume2/v2n2doc.html.

“Oscar Micheaux Society (Founded 1980’s) – Society For Cinema and Media Studies.” Accessed April 14, 2016. http://www.cmstudies.org/?page=groups_micheaux.

“Separate Cinema.” Accessed April 14, 2016. http://www.separatecinema.com/.