A pioneering figure in African American cinema, enterprising autodidact Oscar Devereaux Micheaux had worked as a Pullman porter, a homesteader on the plains of South Dakota, and a writer before he founded his first production company in Chicago in 1919 to adapt his own novel as The Homesteader. These eight impassioned dramas of Black life by Micheaux provide a cross-section of a busy career that spanned the silent to the sound era, creating films that spoke on the subject of race in America from a perspective coming far outside that of white-controlled Hollywood.
A federal agent falls for a Mississippi schoolteacher and rescues her from the clutches of a local crime kingpin—but when the pair escape to Harlem, safety still eludes them.
THE GIRL FROM CHICAGO
An educated Black woman dedicates herself to helping a school for impoverished youths in the rural Deep South. A landmark picture, and the oldest known surviving film made by an African American director.
WITHIN OUR GATES
The first African American–directed sound film, and a rousing romance/thriller that draws upon the years Micheaux spent as the lone Black cattle rancher on the South Dakota prairie.
Light-skinned Eve inherits a plot of land in the Northwest, where she finds friendships and fights off Klansmen, in this response, of sorts, to D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation.
THE SYMBOL OF THE UNCONQUERED
Micheaux’s attempt to make a Hollywood-style melodrama for Black audiences, in which a woman attempts to keep her daughter from marrying a dark-skinned man she considers unworthy of her affection.
Returning to his hometown with aspirations of founding a Tuskegee Institute-style university, a Black Harvard graduate faces stern opposition from locals—as well as the lure of urban nightlife, in splashy musical numbers.
A full-blooded melodrama in which Paul Robeson, in his film debut, plays a double role as an escaped prisoner and his long-lost twin brother.