Born January 2, 1884 in Metropolis, Illinois Oscar Devereaux Micheaux on was an American Author, film director and independent producer of more than 44 films. He is regarded as the first major African-American feature filmmaker, the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the twentieth century and the most prominent producer ofwhat came to be known as "race films", films produced for an all-black audience, featuring black casts.
In 1918, his novel The Homesteader attracted the attention of George Johnson, the manager of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company in Los Angeles. After Johnson offered to make The Homesteader into a new feature film, negotiations and paperwork became contentious between him and Micheaux. Micheaux wanted to be directly involved in the adaptation of his book as a movie, but Johnson resisted and never produced the film.
Instead, Micheaux founded the Micheaux Film and Book Company of Sioux City in Chicago; its first project was the production of The Homesteader as a feature film. Though some members of the Chicago clergy criticized the film as libelous, The Homesteader became known as Micheaux’s breakout film; it helped him become widely known as both a writer and a filmmaker. Micheaux had a major career as a film producer and director: he produced over 40 films, which drew audiences throughout the US as well as internationally.
We are proud to screen both excerpts from Bayer L. Mack's documentary on the filmmaker’s life, The Czar of Black Hollywood (2014), as well as Micheaux’s second silent film Within Our Gates (1920, 79 min), produced in 1920. Although sometimes considered his response to the film Birth of a Nation, Micheaux said that he created it independently as a response to the widespread social instability following World War I.
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