Black Movies & Black Film History:
The Early Years
When Thomas Edison was shooting his actualities in the 1890’s (footage of unedited real events) little did he know that his film of black women bathing their kids in Jamaica or the return of the African American cavalry division from the Spanish American War, would be the first and last for a long time on film of the non-stereotyped black image.
During the early 1900’s when editing was introduced, the black image became what white directors wanted it to be.
In most cases, whites’ played black folks in black-face. The first black film company was formed by William Foster out of Chicago. From 1909 – 1913 William Foster produced the first all black cast film shorts, i.e. The Pullman Porter 1910 & The Railroad Porter 1912.
But, because of distribution problems he eventually folded the operation. In 1915, D.W. Griffith’s, “Birth of a Nation” was produced. Even though, there were no black stars in the film, it can be considered to have been the kick that started Black film again in America.
The Birth of a Nation took stereotypes to a new level, it would show the world what coloreds were really like during reconstruction. It showed crazed, ex-slaves running wild, raping and killing their good masters, the colored government leaders in session with their bare feet in chairs, eating chicken and acting like buffoons. The entire movie was an advertisement for the Klu Klux Klan, especially when they road in and saved the whites from the brutal coloreds at the end.
Two brothers, Phil and Ted Stoneman, visit their friends in Piedmont, South Carolina: the family Cameron. This friendship is affected by the Civil War, as th…