Little Known Black History Fact: Oscar Micheaux

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  • Oscar Devereaux Micheaux was the first major black filmmaker in the United States. With no help from the white-owned film studios, this son of a Kentucky slave made 22 silent films and 15 talking pictures under his own company- the Micheaux Film and Book Company of Sioux City. The Metropolis, Illinois native, born only a handful of years after slavery in 1884, fought against the odds of a segregationist society and released a film version of the book The Homesteader in 1919. It was a major black first in film history.

    Oscar D. Micheaux was raised in Great Bend, KS before leaving to work in Chicago as a Pullman Porter. In 1913 he published his first book, The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer. Micheaux would later write a revision of his book and change the name to The Homesteader, which would be come his first feature full-length film.

    Micheaux’s films were known for addressing the harsh realities of racism. A year after his first film, he released Within Our Gates, which was a response to the critically acclaimed “Birth of a Nation.” Eleven years later, Micheaux released The Exile, which became the first full-length sound feature by an African-American. He would soon become the first black director whose film was released before an all-white audience in an all-white theater (Betrayal, 1948).

    In commemoration of Micheaux’ work, The Directors Guild of America posthumously awarded the Golden Jubilee Special Directorial Award to Oscar Micheaux in 1986. The following year, he was issued a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Then in 2010, the US Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in his honor.

    Just announced this week, writer Bayer L. Mack announced the production of a 6-part series about Micheaux’ called “The Czar of Black Hollywood.” Check out a clip HERE.

    The series will premiere March 31st.

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