Between film corrosion and discrimination, a full 80 percent of silent movies made by African-Americans have been lost to history. But those that survived have some incredible stories to tell. The oldest-known, Within Our Gates, directed by Oscar Micheaux, is available to view online thanks to the Internet Archive.
Micheaux wasn’t the first black director, but he was considered to be the “first black auteur” according to the New Yorker. However, despite being one of the early silent era’s most prolific and significant directors, Jan-Christopher Horak for the UCLA Film and Television Archive notes that most of his work has been lost to time.
Oscar Micheaux was an African-American filmmaker whose movies were a challenge to racial segregation and an alternative outlet for black moviegoers. He is thought to have written, produced and directed more than 40 films from 1919 to 1948.
Oscar Micheaux was born in or near Metropolis, Illinois, on January 2, 1884. He moved to Chicago at age 17 and worked as a porter before moving to South Dakota to farm and write. Micheaux’s experiences served as the subject matter for his novel The Homesteader. In 1919, he produced a big screen version of the novel, which was the first full-length feature produced by an African American filmmaker. A sometimes controversial trailblazer, Micheaux continued to make films for the next three decades until his death on March 25, 1951, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Wikipedia).