Monday , May 27 2024

Spotlight On Early Black Cinema at the National Archives

Three films highlighting African-American cinema between 1929 and 1954 will be screened by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on June 17 and 18 at the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Presented in conjunction with the Academy’s touring exhibition “Close Up in Black: African American Film Posters” currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s International Gallery in Washington, the screenings will feature discussions with leading authors, critics and historians on the contributions, impact and portrayal of African-Americans in early Hollywood.

The Negro Soldier (1944) was produced to demonstrate to black troops their value in the fight against the Axis powers, and was eventually seen by millions throughout America. The film was directed by Frank Capra and Stuart Heisler and produced by the Special Service Division-Army Service Forces of the U.S. War Department.

Introductory remarks will be given by Dr. Thomas Cripps, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Morgan State University in Baltimore, and author of numerous books on African-Americans in film. The screening will feature a newly made 35mm print from the holdings of the National Archives.

Hallelujah, released in 1929, was the first movie from a major studio to feature an all-black cast. Directed by King Vidor and starring Daniel L. Haynes and Nina Mae McKinney, the film features jazz, spirituals and folk songs, and tells the story of a cotton-picker who struggles to become an honorable preacher.

Historian Dr. Edward Mapp, whose personal collection of vintage posters is the foundation of the “Close Up in Black” exhibition, will introduce the film. Hallelujah will be presented in a new sepia-toned print, made to replicate the film’s original release version, courtesy of Warner Bros. and the collection of Martin Scorsese.

Starring in the title role of Carmen Jones (1954), Dorothy Dandridge was the first African American to be nominated for an Academy Award in the “best actress” category. Oscar Hammerstein’s musical adaptation was directed by Otto Preminger and also stars Harry Belafonte and Pearl Bailey, with the screen debuts of Diahann Carroll and Brock Peters. Carmen Jones will be introduced by Washington-based entertainment reviewer and cultural critic Joe Barber. The film will be presented in a new 35mm Cinemascope print courtesy of Twentieth Century-Fox and the Academy Film Archive.

“Close Up in Black” is on its final stop of a three-year, ten-city tour, and will be on display through July 28 at the Smithsonian Institute’s International Gallery. The installation features 90 vintage and contemporary film posters chronicling the journey of African American actors, directors, writers and graphic artists in the film industry.

Screenings will take place at the National Archives’ McGowan Theater (700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC. Enter on Constitution Avenue):

The Negro Soldier – Friday, June 17 at 8 p.m.
(A dessert reception will follow)
Hallelujah – Saturday, June 18 at 4 p.m.
Carmen Jones – Saturday, June 18 at 7 p.m

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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