From Blackface to Blaxploitation: Representations of African Americans in Film

Oscar Micheaux

African American director, producer, and writer Oscar Micheaux was an elusive and unconventional figure in the first half of the 20th century. He was believed to have produced well over 30 films and authored several novels during his career although only evidence of a few survives today. Oscar Micheaux “all-colored cast” productions confronted controversial issues of lynching, gambling, domestic abuse, corrupt community leaders, police profiling, and racial identity within the African American community. Micheaux’s films and novels show that he also drew heavily from his own life experiences, from his work as a Pullman Porter to time as a homesteader in South Dakota. Unlike his contemporaries, Oscar Micheaux survived the shift from the silent film era to the incorporation of “talkies” and continued producing until 1948 with his last known film The Betrayal. Micheaux remains the most prolific, yet elusive, black filmmaker of the early 20th century.