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From the formation of movie studios until the 1960s, Black people were typecast in less than flattering roles by the major studios to the point that they could not get an acting role outside of this typecasting. After several decades of trying to break through to better roles, small independent black studios began to pop up. These independent studies created movies especially for the black population.

Most of these studios were started by the black actors themselves who would go accept typical typecast parts from the major studios just to have the money to make low budget films with more quality roles. Naturally, no part of these ventures was handled by any mainstream distribution, so totally independent ways of distribution were used.

Unfortunately the very early films were so low budget that quite often there was no money to make advertising materials, so sometimes posters were hand made and distributions were by car and word of mouth.

Some of the early Black Studios were:

Ebony Pictures Corp. of Chicago - which released films from 1916 until 1920. For films in our database, click here

Lincoln Motion Picture Co. owned Noble and George Johnson and released films from 1916 until 1921. For films in our database, click here.

Micheaux Picture Corp. owned by Oscar Micheaux, who was a major force behind the development of black cast films from 1919 until 1948. For films in our database, click here.

Norman Studios owned by Richard E. Norman who made films from 1920 until 1928. For films in our database, click here.

As these studios grew and slowly increased their budget, these films began utilizing posters and advertising materials for these all black films. These posters were marked with phrases like 'all colored cast'.

A lot of these posters have been very difficult to obtain, especially the earlier years, because of the independent distributions until the 1960s when they started to cross over into mainstream. We have these listed in our database as Black Cast. For a list, click here.

With the influx in the 70s of what was called blaxploitation films like Shaft, Cleopatra Jones, Blacula etc., popularity has continued to climb. We have a separate category of Blaxploitation, for that list, click here

Some Major Events for Black Film History

The first black film on record was the Railroad Porter in 1912. A silent comedy with an all black cast directed by Bill Foster.

The first black production company is recorded as the Lincoln Motion Picture Co. in Los Angeles. We do have some questions though on this. The Lincoln Motion Picture Co. formed in 1915 with their first release in 1916 (Realisation of a Negro's Ambition). However, the Ebony Picture Co. of Chicago was the first black distribution company that we have been able to find. They formed and distributed their first film in 1915 (Two Knights in Vaudeville). They were distributing the film for the Historical Feature Film Co. The Historical Feature Film Co. produced one film in 1914 (Black and White), 2 films in 1915 (Two Knights in Vaudeville and Aladdin Jones), one film in 1916 (Money Talks in Darktown) and one in 1919 (A Natural Born Shooter). We believe the Historical Feature Film Co. is a black production company which would make them the oldest on record ... but we have not we have not been able to confirm this.

The first black feature film was The Colored American Winning His Suit which premiered at Jersey City on July 14, 1916. This six reel film was released by Frederick Douglas Film Co. and billed as having the 'best families in New Jersey'

The first black 'talkie' was Melancholy Dame in 1928, a 2 reel comedy by Christie Comedies.

The first feature length black 'talkie' was MGM's Hallelujah!

The first feature length black 'talkie' made by a black production company was The Exile in 1931 by Oscar Micheaux Corp.

The first British feature length black film by a black production company was Reggae in 1970 which was a documentary about Jamaican music.

An early oddity: During the early film days, black characters were quite often played by white actors in black-face. In D.W.Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915), which had a large cast of black roles, only ONE genuine black was employed on the film. And that one had the odd name of ..... Madame Sul-Te-Wan???

The first film with an all African cast was Nionga, a British film in 1925. Before WWII, there were a couple of European films that had an all Zulu cast: Zeliv, an Italian release in 1928; Samba, a German release in 1928; and Stampede, a British release in 1930.

The first all African cast film for the African market was Zonk, a South African film released in 1950.



NOTICE: If you know of a black cast film that we don't have listed either as black cast OR we don't have in the database at all, please contact me and I'll be glad to add it......
We are also in the process of adding more information and bios on the early studios.
ed - edp@LearnAboutMoviePosters.com

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