One of our first filmmakers, Oscar Micheaux


Oscar Micheaux
Date: 
Wed, 1884-01-02

On this date we recall the birth of Oscar Micheaux in 1884. He was an African American novelist, businessman, and pioneer filmmaker who was best known for his dramatic movies about Black life.

He was born near Murphysboro, Illinois. At the age of 17, Micheaux traveled to Chicago, where he worked as a shoeshine boy and Pullman porter. In 1904, he bought a homestead in South Dakota where the frontier environment gave him a generous amount of material for several of his most important books and movies.

Micheaux's first creative work was the 1913 novel, "The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer." Micheaux's first film. "The Homesteader," in 1919 came from his second novel and was a product of his business, The Micheaux Book and Film Company. He went on to produce, write, and direct more than 30 films over the next three decades. Eventually, branch offices of his company opened in New York and Chicago.

The first African-American feature length movie with sound, "The Exile," was a 1931 Micheaux creation. The budgets for Micheaux's many films came from the director's own entrepreneurial efforts. He personally transported prints from town to town, sometimes for a single showing, and edited his movies on the road. His works portrayed the struggles of individual characters against prejudice within the black community as well as in opposition to racism. Micheaux returned to writing novels in the last decade of his life. A retelling of his pioneer memories appeared in the 1944 film, "The Wind from Nowhere." Oscar Micheaux died in 1951.

Reference:
Reference Library of Black America, Volumes 1 through 5
Edited by Mpho Mabunda
Copyright 1998, Gale Research, Detroit, MI

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Micheaux, Oscar