The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Blackness
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Sunday, January 13, 2013

In The Shadow of Hollywood: Race Movies and the Birth of Black Cinema (2007) & The Broken Earth (1936)

  • Pearl Bowser
  • Leroy Collins
  • Ruby Dee
"In the Shadow of Hollywood: Race Movies and the Birth of Black Cinema captures the sounds and images of a nearly-forgotten era in film history when African American filmmakers and studios created “race movies” exclusively for black audiences.
The best of these films attempted to counter the demeaning stereotypes of black Americans prevalent in the popular culture of the day.

About 500 films were produced, yet only about 100 still exist. Filmmaking pioneers like Oscar Micheaux, the Noble brothers, and Spencer Williams, Jr. left a lasting influence on black filmmakers, and inspired generations of audiences who finally saw their own lives reflected on the silver screen."

"The fragmented history of American "race movies" is explored in this documentary. This niche was born in 1910 out of a segregated and racist attitude toward African Americans in the Hollywood entertainment industry. These films contained all black casts, were guided by black directors, and were produced by black-owned studios through the end of World War II. In order to counter the pervasive stereotypes put forward by Hollywood film, "race movies" rejected depictions that strictly connected poverty and crime to race, and offered more positive, community-centered representations. An estimated 500 films were created, but only 100 survive today. These films not only established more realistic public perceptions of African-American culture, but also helped launch the careers of many outstanding black actors like Lena Horne and Paul Robeson. This underrepresented genre of American film history is effectively celebrated and contextualized through interviews and archival footage. High school media centers, as well as history and communications educators, will find this documentary to be an impacting way to engender discussions about issues of race and representation, and an excellent record of the first independent cinematic movement in America."

Broken Earth (1936) [Short]


  • Clarence Muse
  • Freita Shaw Ethiopian Choir
A farmer (Clarence Muse) and tiller of the soil comes from the fields to find his young son dying. He prays to the Lord to save his only child. His prayer is answered and the boy lives. The Shaw Ethiopian Choir provides the background music.