Author, playwright, movieproducer, director, bookpublisher, and lecturer.The first man to produce a full-length, eight-reel, all-AfricanAmerican movieThe first African American to writeand publish a best-selling novel--witha circulation of over 55,000.During this phase of his life, hewas founder and president of theMicheaux Film Corp., and wascredited with producing 44 ofthe 82 all-Negro pictures made
Micheaux was born January2, 1884, on a farm nearMetropolis, Illinois. He wasthe fifth of thirteenchildren born to Calvin andBelle Micheaux. As mightbe expected with a largefamily, the Micheaux clanstruggled financially.Oscars parents stressededucation, however, andthe youngster grew updetermined to seek hisfortune elsewhere.(Micheaux)
Micheaux: However, thegreedy and inhuman attitude ofthis monopoly this toward itscolored employees has just theopposite effect, and isdemoralizing indeed.Thousands of black porterscontinue to give their servicesin return for starvation wagesand are compelled to graft thecompany and people for aliving.” (Micheaux, 50)
“But when the reality of the situation dawned upon me, Ibecame in a way frightened, for I did not want to fall in lovewith a white girl. I had always disapproved ofintermarriage…that we would become desperately inlove, however, seemed inevitable. (Micheaux, 155)
Griffith’s innovations beginning with the Birth ofa Nation includes but are not limited to: “Its ownoriginal musical score written for anorchestra, the definitive usage of the still-shot, elaborate costuming to achieve historicalauthenticity and accuracy, scenes innovativelyfilmed from many different and multipleangles, the technique of the camera "iris"effect, the use of parallel action and editing in asequence, moving, traveling or "panning" cameratracking shots the effective use of total-screenclose-ups to reveal intimate expressions, the useof fade-outs and cameo-profiles, the use of lapdissolves to blend or switch from one image toanother, high-angle shots and the abundant useof panoramic long shots, extensive cross-cuttingbetween two scenes to create a montage-effectand generate excitement and suspense” (Dirks)
“The legacy of Birth of a Nationwas a revived and powerful newKu Klux Klan, some forty-fiveyears after it had been outlawedand made a mere footnote inhistory, and propagandamasquerading as history…”(Jansson). “The uncouth black andmulatto politicians are seenopenly drinking liquor andgoing barefoot on the floor ofCongress…” (Jansson)
Features interracial cast, WithinOur Gates follows a Southern blackwoman who, abandoned by herfiancé, travels to the North in searchof funding for a black school in herhome town, only to have her pastcome back to haunt her. The filmexplores racial tensions in the Souththrough issues ofmiscegenation, rape, and, mostcontroversially, lynching. Due to aparticularly graphic lynchingscene, Southern theatres would notbook the film and it eventuallydisappeared for seventy years.
“Where films produced by whiteAmericans presented these ridiculousstereotypes as excessive fragmentswith scant relevance to the mainnarrative, Micheaux attempted todelineate the social pathologies ofrace and racism.” (Horne)
. “Time and again, we see charactersin Micheaux’s filmreading, discussing, and acting inways that are fully consonant withpossessing a full-fledged humanity.The title cards in Micheaux’s filmrepeatedly assert that blackAmericans are complete humanbeings, deserving of rights equal tothose conferred on whites.” (Flory)
“Old Ned says to the camera, "Again, Ivesold my birthright. All for a miserable messof pottage." Despondent and frustrated, heargues, "Negroes and Whites - all areequal. As for me miserable sinner, hell is mydestiny." This is a remarkably provocativescene. Uncle Tom characters were a staplein white mainstream films and some blackindependent productions, but never had adirector attempted to explain the psychologyof such a human being. " (Butters, 2000)
The emasculation of blackmen and the reality ofwhite brutality andviolence against blacks
“Micheauxs use of crosscutting in Within Our Gates (1919), particularly in regard to the attempted rape of Sylvia Landry and the lynching of her adoptive parents, suggests not only parallelism, but also simultaneity and juxtaposition, such that the effect is to bring together two events that do not, in fact, take place at the same time… into one flashback sequence within the film arguably served to heighten the emotional response of audience members to this particular sequence.” (Frederickson)Here, the film’s African Americanprotagonist Sylvia Landry (EvelynPreer) tries to protect herself from avery real assault and attempted rape atthe hands of white landowner Armand
“The viewer is soon“Reverend Thurston has begun an introduced to Reverendactive campaign for the education of Wilson Jacobs, the founder ofthe black race. He asks that the a school for Africanfederal government contribute Americans and "[an] apostlesignificantly, so that Negro children in of education for the blackall of the U.S. can receive proper race." Micheauxinstruction." Thus, Micheaux demonstrates the lack ofaddresses a serious contemporary educational opportunitiesproblem which virtually all filmmakers available to African Americanof the period, both black and children in the South.”white, ignored.”
Lying Lips“However, Micheauxs films are Elsee, a nightclub singer, is sentmost notable for the absence of to prison for the murder of herracial stereotypes and for the aunt. Herpresence of a cast of boyfriend, Benjamin, attemptsaccomplished black actors to prove her innocence. Assistingwith a luminescent star Benjamin is detectivequality that mirrors the Wanzer, played by Robert Earlhighly capitalized white- Jones (James Earl Jonescentered studio films.” father). Appearing in a bit part(Horne) is Juano Hernandez (later to star in Intruder in the Dust ). A prime example of Micheaux’s use of Hollywood genres and characterizations in so-called race films. Edna Mae Harris
Veiled Aristocrat Gods Step ChildrenLorenzo Tucker (the "BlackValentino") stars in this story of a Oscar Micheauxs film deals withlawyer who returns home to find a light skinned African-that his light-skinned sister is about American orphan who refuses toto marry a dark-skinned man. His acknowledge her race. She windsmother has picked a more suitable up in a convent after beingcandidate. Director Oscar Micheaux disruptive in her all Blackonce again tack les the issue of dark- school. Eventually she marries askinned versus light-skinned dark-skinned man. A seriousAfrican-Americans. Features Laura and moving film featuringBowman. Alice B. Russell, Carmen Newsome, Jacqueline Lewis and Ethel Moses.
“Considering that Micheaux, andother independent blackfilmmakers during the second andthird decades of the twentiethcentury, struggled againstcensorship, worked with small-scale productions, and had vastproblems with distribution --often traveling in between statesthemselves, catering to those fewhundred black cinemas thatscreened race films -- it appearsquite puzzling that Micheauxsucceeded in exporting some ofhis films abroad without theassistance of a major studiosdistribution channels.”(Gustafsson, 2008, 30-49)
SwingOscar Micheaux was in the directors chair for this tribute toAfrican-American music. Featured are songs performedfrom Alabama to Harlem, with the Tyler Twins performingthe dance numbers, and also featuring Cora Green, HazelDiaz, Carmen Newsome and Alec Lovejoy.