Oscar Micheaux and His Circle: African-American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era
by Pearl Bowser
Oscar Micheaux-the most prolific African-American filmmaker to date and a filmmaking giant of the silent period-has finally found his rightful place ... Show synopsis Oscar Micheaux-the most prolific African-American filmmaker to date and a filmmaking giant of the silent period-has finally found his rightful place in film history. Both artist and showman, Micheaux stirred controversy in his time as he confronted issues such as lynching, miscegenation, peonage and white supremacy, passing, and corruption among black clergymen. He emphasized the importance of education and the rights of citizenship (the vote, equal protection under the law) for racial uplift, to advance race progress, to awaken black consciousness, and to correct negative behavior within black communities. These films spoke to black moviegoers in ways that were completely different from Hollywood pictures. In this important new collection, prominent scholars examine Micheaux's surviving silent films, his fellow producers of race films who alternately challenged or emulated his methods, and the cultural activities that surrounded and sustained these achievements. The essays shed new light on the feature filmmaking of Richard Maurice (Detroit), David Starkman and the Colored Players Film Corporation (Philadelphia), and Richard Norman (Florida), as well as the stardom of Evelyn Preer, Lucia Lynn Moses, Paul Robeson, Charles Gilpin, and Lawrence Chenault. Studies of the shorter films shot in 16mm by ethnographer Zora Neale Hurston and religious reformers James and Eloyce Gist (Washington, D.C.) fill out the complex picture of an era. Authors examine Micheaux's films (and novels) from a range of perspectives, including his radical aesthetic strategies, his uses of stereotypes, his powerful critiques of D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation and Eugene O'Neill's race plays, his radical uses of other texts (notably the novels of Charles Chesnutt), and his work with such genres as the Western. The relationship between black film and both the stage (particularly the Lafayette Players) and the black press, issues of underdevelopment, and a genealogy of Micheaux scholarship, as well as extensive and more accurate filmographies, give a richly textured portrait of this era. The essays will fascinate the general public as well as scholars in the fields of film studies, cultural studies, and African American history. This thoroughly readable collection is a superb reference work lavishly illustrated with rare photographs. Contributors include Pearl Bowser, Jayna Brown, Corey Creekmur, Jane Gaines, Gloria J. Gibson, J. Ronald Green, Arthur Jafa, Phyllis Klotman, Charles Musser, Charlene Regester, Louise Spence, Clyde R. Taylor, Sr. Francesca Thompson, and Michele Wallace.