The mission of The Department of Afro-American Research Arts and Culture is to identify the global significance of the creative contributions pioneered by an international diaspora of Afro-Americans.
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Vintage Black Hollywood

Vintage Black Hollywood
(1900 - 1954)

There is a fundamental difference between Vintage Black Hollywood films and Race films during the early years of Black Cinema. Vintage Black Hollywood films generally depicted African-Americans in very stereotypical roles such as servants, mammies, hustlers, lazy, blackface, and so forth. These films were usually made by white directors/writers while being produced by major motion picture companies such as Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures, and MGM. These films usually had bigger budgets and very talented African-American actors, musicians, singers,and dancers. Race films, were Black independent films that were mostly made by Black writers/directors and produced/distributed by Black motion picture companies. Not all Race films were made by African-Americans, but in general these films featured African-Americans in less stereotypical roles. When ciphering through Black films during the early years of Black cinema, it's easy to confuse Vintage Black Hollywood films with Race Films, but after reviewing many films from that time period, it's fairly easy to separate Hollywood's idea of Black cinema versus the films that were considered Race films.

By the 1950s, Hollywood was shifting it's idea on how African-Americans were portrayed on film by eliminating some of stereotypical roles and challenging racism within American society. This shift also was the demise of Race films because of the infamous United States v. Paramount Pictures supreme court decision in 1948 that decided the fate of movie studios owning their own theaters and holding exclusivity rights on which theaters would show their films. Hollywood continued to produce very few Black films and Black independent filmmakers were non-existent during this time period. The Vintage Black Hollywood era was subtly come to an end, but the start of the Civil Rights Movement in 1954 gave way to a new type of thinking.

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    • Darktown Follies (1930) [imdb]
    • Dat Blackhand Waitah Man (1917)
    • Deep South (1930) [imdb]
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        Visit the Museum of Black Cult Cinema for additional information and digital media.