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Screening Of Oscar Micheaux’s Pioneering ‘Within Our Gates’ In Chicago In Feb.

Screening Of Oscar Micheaux's Pioneering 'Within Our Gates' In Chicago In Feb.

Oscar Micheaux’s groundbreaking 1919 silent feature film, Within Our Gates, will have a rare screening in Chicago at the Music Box Theater, on Saturday Feb. 9 at 12 Noon.

The film, which is being screened as part of the theater’s regular Saturday Silent Cinema series, is the earliest known and complete black film made by an African-American director, and was originally made by Micheaux as a response to D.W. Criffith’s 1915, still inflammatory, The Birth of a Nation.

Basically telling the story of black schoolteacher who goes North ro raise funds for better schools in the segregated South, the film, which was made in and around Chicago right after the infamous “Red Summer” race riots in Chicago during the summer of 1919, not only chronicles the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the North in hopes of a better life, but is a searing indictment against racism, including a still hard-to-watch climactic lynching sequence.

All this along with a plot twist right out of a Victorian melodrama, and a hissable treacherous Uncle Tom-type character who could very well be the prototype for the character of Stephen in Django Unchained.

The film, which was long thought to be lost, was rescued from obscurity when a lone surviving print was found in Spain and restored by the Library of Congress in 1993.

The screening of Gates, since it’s a silent film, will feature live musical accompaniment.

For more details go HERE.

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James Madison

Good to see Oscar's films being screened. They used to show them all the time on CUNY TV in New York.


Sergio, I see you guys are doing the damn thing in Chicago (Black Cinema House and this!). My hat is tipped in your direction. I wish there were more black folks championing the works of Oscar Micheaux. But unfortunately, to my knowledge, that's not the case.

Mr. Micheaux met the same back-lash and criticism as we see directed at Lee Daniels and Tyler Perry. Although both are considered successful and ground-breaking directors, many in our community take on the role of Statler & Waldorf. Those two disagreeable old farts of The Muppet Show fame, were hell bend on heckling the actors for what they perceived as a "bad show".

Since many of the themes in Micheaux's films centered on racism, and of course, black life in general, some in the black community took umbrage at how he exhibited that "behavior". But it's worth noting that many loved his work, however the loudest voices seem to prevail. It sort of reminds me of the furor over the Amos & Andy television series. Millions of black folks loved that series, but the loudest and strongest voice, the NAACP, was instrumental in its banishment. Btw, the star of the Amos & Andy Series, Kingfish, was the star of Micheaux's 1931 short variety film "Darktown Review". I have it in my collection.

Since Micheaux death in 1951, there has been one film festival (that I know of) in his honor. But oddly enough, it's run by white people. The following are a few words from that festival:

Micheaux was an early Black homesteader in Gregory, South Dakota, whose homesteading experience inspired seven novels and 44 films. He was an author and filmaker who had a profound impact on national and international black cinema. He was the first African American to write, direct, and produce a feature length film (The Homesteader, 1918) which was filmed near Gregory. Furthermore, Micheaux was the first African American to produce a film that opened in white theaters. In addition to these accomplishments, Micheaux was the first African American to write and publish a best selling novel. Every year, the Oscar Micheaux Center in Gregory, South Dakota, holds a festival celebrating current local, statewide, and national talents honoring Micheaux's many contributions to film and books. Gregory, South Dakota, is the home to the only cultural center in the world dedicated to Oscar Micheaux.

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