Oscar Micheaux and His Circle

Oscar Micheaux and His Circle

African-American Filmmaking and Race Cinema of the Silent Era
Pearl Bowser, Jane Gaines and Charles Musser
Distribution: World
Publication date: 03/28/2016
Format: Paperback 155 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-02135-9
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Oscar Micheaux—the most prolific African American filmmaker to date and a filmmaking giant of the silent period—has finally found his rightful place in film history. Both artist and showman, Micheaux stirred controversy in his time as he confronted issues such as lynching, miscegenation, peonage and white supremacy, passing, and corruption among black clergymen. In this important collection, prominent scholars examine Micheaux’s surviving silent films, his fellow producers of race films who alternately challenged or emulated his methods, and the cultural activities that surrounded and sustained these achievements. The relationship between black film and both the stage (particularly the Lafayette Players) and the black press, issues of underdevelopment, and a genealogy of Micheaux scholarship, as well as extensive and more accurate filmographies, give a richly textured portrait of this era. The essays will fascinate the general public as well as scholars in the fields of film studies, cultural studies, and African American history. This thoroughly readable collection is a superb reference work lavishly illustrated with rare photographs.

Author Bio

Pearl Bowser is founder and director of African Diaspora Images, a collection of historical and contemporary African American and African films and memorabilia. She is author (with Louise Spence) of Writing Himself into History: Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films, and His Audiences.

Jane Gaines is Professor of Film at Columbia University and the author of two award-winning books, Contested Culture: The Image, the Voice, and the Law, and Fire and Desire: Mixed Race Movies in the Silent Era.

Charles Musser is Professor of American Studies and Film Studies at Yale University. His books include The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 and Edison Motion Pictures, 1890–1900: An Annotated Filmography.


“The 14 essays cover a range of topics, from overviews of black American performance and cinemas, to detailed analyses of Micheaux films, to thoughtful discussion of the work and impact of other groups of African American performers and filmmakers. The essays are lively and readable, casting light on an underrepresented fact of American film history. —Library Journal This collection of essays by leading scholars in the field restores Oscar Micheaux to the place he deserves in film history. The book will be a reference for anybody interested in the pioneers of American cinema. —Manthia Diawara, author African Cinema: Politics and Culture Oscar Michaeux and His Circle is a marvel of scholarly cooperative effort, an omnibus book of heroic scope befitting its authors’ ambition to recreate the complex African American world of the 1920s that Micheaux and his movies meant to serve. . . . The book features an uncommonly rich trove of photographs, stills from his movies, advertisements, and other ephemera of his age, along with thorough-going bibliographies and filmographies. —Thomas Cripps, author of Black Film as Genre and Making Movies Black This is a landmark text, essential for teaching and reference. . . . A splendid collective achievement. —Hazel V. Carby, author of Cultures in Babylon: Black Britain and African America and Race Men”

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Table of Contents


The Touring Package: Programs and Credits
Introduction: Oscar Micheaux and Race Movies of the Silent Period / Pearl Bowser, Jane Gaines, and Charles Musser

I. Overviews
1. Black Silence and the Politics of Representation / Clyde R. Taylor
2. The Notion of Treatment: Black Aesthetics and Film / based on an interview with Peter Hessli and additional contributions from Pearl Bowser, A. J. Jafa
3. From Shadows 'n Shufflin' to Spotlights and Cinema: The Lafayette Players, 1915-1932 / Sr. Francesca Thompson
4. The African-American Press and Race Movies, 1909-1929 / Charlene Regester

II. Oscar Micheaux
5. Oscar Micheaux's Within Our Gates: The Possibilities for Alternative Visions / Michele Wallace
6. Within Our Gates: From Race Melodrama to Opportunity Narrative / Jane Gaines
7. Oscar Micheaux's The Symbol of the Unconquered: Text and Context / Pearl Bowser and Louise Spence
8. To Redream the Dreams of White Playwrights: Reappropriation and Resistance in Oscar Micheaux's Body and Soul / Charles Musser
9. Black Patriarch on the Prairie: National Identity and Black Manhood in the Early Novels of Oscar Micheaux / Jayna Brown
10. Telling White Lies: Oscar Micheaux and Charles W. Chesnutt / Corey Creekmur

III. Micheaux's Contemporaries
11. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: The Flying Ace, the Norman Company, and the Micheaux Connection / Phyllis Klotman
12. Colored Players Film Corporation
An Alternative to Micheaux / Charles Musser
Lost, then Found: The Wedding Scene from The Scar of Shame (1929) / Pearl Bowser
13. Richard D. Maurice and the Maurice Film Company / Pearl Bowser and Charles Musser
14. Cinematic Foremothers: Zora Neale Hurston and Eloyce King Patrick Gist / Gloria J. Gibson

Appendix A. The Reemergence of Oscar Micheaux: A Timeline and Bibliographic Essay / J. Ronald Green
Appendix B. An Oscar Micheaux Filmography: From the Silents through His

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