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Pioneers of African-American Cinema
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Remind Me

Pioneers of African-American Cinema - 7/24 & 7/31

On the final two Sundays of the month, TCM will consider the influential and groundbreaking work of African-American cinema artists in the early part of the 20th Century. Working independently of the Hollywood studio system, these filmmakers created hundreds of stylistically diverse "race films" that addressed black culture and were screened in segregated theaters across the country. Many of these films have been lost through neglect, but those that have been preserved remain fascinating in their thematic and stylistic diversity.

Joining Ben Mankiewicz to co-host our tribute is Jacqueline Stewart, Professor at The University of Chicago with the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and author of Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity. Stewart directs the South Side Home Movie Project and is co-curator of the L.A. Rebellion Preservation Project at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. She also serves as an appointee to the National Film Preservation Board. She is currently researching the racial politics of moving image preservation and is also completing a study of the life and work of African American actor/writer/director Spencer Williams.

Our program of films, which includes ten TCM premieres, ranges from Two Knights of Vaudeville (1915)/Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled (1918), a pair of short silent comedies from a collection produced by the Ebony Motion Picture Company of Chicago; to Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946), an unauthorized adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's Rain directed by Spencer Williams and starring "race film" favorite Francine Everett as the Sadie Thompson character, here called Gertie La Rue.

Silents also include Oscar Micheaux's Within Our Gates (1920), Richard E. Norman's Regeneration (1923) and Frank Peregini's Scar of Shame (1927). From the sound era come Micheaux's Birthright (1939), an adaptation of Thomas Edmund Stribling's novel in which Carman Newsome plays a black student who graduates from Harvard only to face the racism of the time; and The Blood of Jesus (1941), with Spencer Williams directing and also starring as a man who finds religion after his wife's mystical experiences.