Seminar discusses African-American film in early years

By Jason Patrick

Clara, Leo Rucker

TCC’s coordinator of television programming presented a brief history of early African-American films Feb. 7 on South Campus. 

Bruce Grinstead talked about three influential men and how they made films for black audiences.

In early films, African-Americans were not portrayed in a positive light. The movie, Birth of a Nation, a film that praised the KKK, was considered an anti-black movie. This film resulted in the creation of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company, the first company to have an all-black cast and design films for an all-black audience. Even though Lincoln made movies for African-American audiences, none of the people working backstage were African-American.

Oscar Micheaux, the first African-American director, decided he wanted a career change after becoming a lawyer, so he wrote a book called The Homestead. The book eventually caught the attention of Lincoln, which offered to buy the rights to the book to turn it into a movie. Micheaux turned down the offer because he wanted to produce and direct the film himself.

Other notable African-Americans in the film industry included Spencer Williams, who started off as a sound engineer, and William Alexander, who was the first African-American to produce By-Line Newsreels.

“I heard there was going to be a speaker talking about film and Black History Month, so I wanted to see what it was about,” South student Kaylon Browning said.

Students appreciated the explanations provided by the historical information in the presentation.

“It was really interesting to see the history of it, and it’s nice to see the effort put into the restoration of films that might otherwise go overlooked,” South student Mark Babcock said.