University’s Black Film Center/Archive, which was founded in 1981
by Phyllis Klotman, is without
question the greatest research and collection repository of anything and everything
by and about African Americans and films.
As the Center states, its mission is to :1) Expand the film collection of historic and current films by and about Blacks,
2) To encourage the continuation of creative film activity by independent black
filmmakers, 3) To undertake and encourage research in the history, meaning, and
aesthetics of black film and 4) To guide and support students and researchers in
Black Film Studies.”
It’s definitely worth a trip to Bloomington, Indiana to see this remarkable and important institution for yourself.
And now the Center has announced that Mary Perry Smith, the co-founder of the
Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, has
donated her vast and expensive collection of Black film memorabilia and artifacts, which includes over 300 linear feet of records, audiovisual materials,
publications and memorabilia from the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.
According to the Center’s archivist Brian Graney: “The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame collection
is a treasure. It illuminates the black presence in film history and adds to
our historical understanding of the growth of black filmmaking — both
Hollywood and independent — over the late 20th century.”
Among the many valuable objects in the Smith collection are the original grave maker of Oscar Micheaux, an oil painting of Madame Sul-Te-Wan AKA Nellie Crawford (pictured above – a film actress in the early 20th century and
the daughter of freed slaves, whose career started in 1915, and continued
until 1958), costumes, including items worn by the dancing team the Nicholas Brothers and Ruby Dee, and the original Hollywood
musical scores and arrangements by musician Phil Moore, who became the first African American composer on staff
at a major studio when he joined MGM
Studios in 1942.