Oscar Micheaux is considered the most prolific Black filmmaker in the history of American cinema, a title he earned by creating forty-four feature-length films between 1919 and 1948. Micheaux founded his own production company in 1918 to produce the film version of his 1917 novel, The Homesteader. It became the first full-length feature film directed, written and produced by an African-American. With his fifth movie, “Within Our Gates,” Micheaux attacked the racism portrayed in the most highly acclaimed silent movie of all time, D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation.” In it, Micheaux used the same lighting, blocking, and setting as Griffith to question Grifith’s racist portrayal of Blacks. His films offered audiences a radical departure from the 1930’s Hollywood portrayal of Blacks as servants and brought diverse images of ghetto life and related social issues to the screen for the first time. In this discussion, we discuss African-American representation in film yesterday and today. How does race play a role in films and entertainment?
Charles Musser is a Professor of Film Studies and American Studies at Yale University, and the Director of the University’s Summer Film Institute. Musser is a prolific and highly acclaimed author and documentary filmaker, with expertise in film historiography and American cinema. Musser co-edited the book “Oscar Micheaux and His Circle: African American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era” (2001) with Jane Gaines and Pearl Bowser.
Terri Francis Ph.D. earned her doctorate at the University of Chicago, where she specialized in the history and aesthetics of African Diaspora cinema, literature and culture. She is a Assistant Professor of Film Studies, and African American Studies at Yale University and the Director of Undergraduate Film Studies.
Don Mays Assistant Director, Intercultural Studies, Roger Williams University. The Rhode Island-based independent filmmaker’s most recent documentary explores the history of the first Black regiment of soldiers who fought in America’s Revolutionary War.