Oscar Micheaux's Portrayal Of African Americans In The Harlem Renaissance Film

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1 The Harlem Renaissance was a movement that occurred from the end of WWI until the 1930’s, in which there was a mass migration of African Americans from the South up North. African Americans fled North in search of opportunities, including industrial jobs in factories and mills. Many African Americans fled to Harlem, which then became a cultural center for African Americans. Throughout this movement, African Americans attempted to prove to others, especially white people, that they were equal. African American artists, musicians, filmmakers, and other professions used different techniques in their art than they had previously in order to demonstrate their equality.1 Oscar Micheaux is one of the most famous filmmakers of the Harlem Renaissance. Micheaux’s films portrayed African Americans more realistically by eliminating the common stereotypes of African Americans,…show more content…
Micheaux created “race” films which consisted of an all-black cast for black audiences. Micheaux’s films were a reaction, and a necessity, to what was then a segregated Hollywood industry and a segregated society. Micheaux attempted to challenge ideas portrayed in other films including white supremacy.4 Micheaux’s second film Within Our Gates (1920), was his response to D.W Griffith’s Birth Of a Nation (1915).5 Birth Of a Nation promoted Anti-African American ideas with its emphasis on the Ku Klux Klan. In Birth Of a Nation, a false version of the South after the Civil War was portrayed in which blacks were presented as dominating Southern whites (almost all of whom are noble in the film) because of their strong presence in the South during the Reconstruction era.6 The Klan was glorified as being the South’s savior from the alleged tyranny. This portrayal was the opposite of what actually occurred which was slavery.7 Resulting from the emphasis on the Ku Klux Klan, violence and intolerance against the Negro in both the North and the

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