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Oscar Micheaux
Born Oscar Devereaux Micheaux
January 2, 1884(1884-01-02)
Metropolis, Illinois, USA
Died March 25, 1951 (aged 67)
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
Occupation Director, author
Spouse(s) Alice B. Russell (1926-1951)

Oscar Devereaux Micheaux (2 January 1884 – 25 March 1951) was an American author and film director. Although predated by the short lived Lincoln Motion Picture Company that put out smaller films, he is regarded as the first African-American feature filmmaker, and the most prominent producer of race films.[1]



Micheaux (sometimes written as "Michaux") was born near Metropolis, Illinois and grew up in Great Bend, Kansas, one of eleven children of former slaves. As a young boy, he shined shoes and worked as a porter on the railway. As a young man, he very successfully homesteaded a farm in an all-white area of South Dakota, where he began writing stories. Micheaux overcame many of the racist attitudes and restrictions on African-American publishers and authors by forming his own publishing company to sell his books door-to-door.

The advent of the motion picture industry intrigued him as a vehicle to tell his stories. He formed his own movie production company and, in 1919, became the first African-American to make a film. He wrote, directed and produced the silent motion picture, The Homesteader, starring pioneering African-American actress Evelyn Preer, based on his novel of the same name. He used autobiographical elements in The Exile, his first feature film with sound, in which the central character leaves Chicago to buy and operate a ranch in South Dakota. In 1924, his film, Body and Soul, introduced the movie-going public to Paul Robeson.

Given the times, his accomplishments in publishing and film are extraordinary, including being the first African American to produce a film to be shown in "white" movie theaters. In his motion pictures, he moved away from the "Negro stereotypes" being portrayed in film at the time. In his film Within Our Gates, Micheaux attacked the racism depicted in the D.W. Griffith film, The Birth of a Nation.

The Producers Guild of America called him "The most prolific black - if not most prolific independent - filmmaker in American cinema." During his illustrious career, Oscar Micheaux wrote, produced and directed forty-four feature-length films between 1919 and 1948 and wrote seven novels, one of which was a national bestseller.

Micheaux died in Charlotte, North Carolina, during a business trip. His body was returned to Great Bend, Kansas, where he was interred in the Great Bend Cemetery, alongside members of his family.





  1. ^ "The Lincoln Motion Picture Company a First for Black Cinema". The African American Registry. 24 May 2005. Retrieved 2009-02-12.  
  2. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete (2002). 100 Greatest African Americans: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1573929638.  

Further reading

  • Yenser, Thomas (1933). Who's Who in Colored America: 1930-1931-1932. Brooklyn: T. Yenser. OCLC 26073112.  
  • Green, J. Ronald (2000). Straight Lick: The Cinema of Oscar Micheaux. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253337534.  
  • McGilligan, Patrick (2007). Oscar Micheaux, the Great and Only: The Life of America's First Black Filmmaker. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 0060731397.  

External links

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