Week Seven: Within our Gates (1920)

Title: Within Our Gates

Tone: A gutsy independent film on race relations from 1920

Who:

Director-Oscar Micheaux

Cast- Evelyn Preer, Flo Clements, James D. Ruffin

When: 1920

What: An independent silent film about the state of race relations in America in the 1920s.

Why:

  • Made during the era of a flourishing Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow Laws, The Great Migration, and only a year after the Chicago Race Riots of 1919, Within Our Gates stands as one of the gutsiest and significantly important works in the history of Cinema.
  • Thought to be lost for decades until a single print was found in Spain in the 1970s, Within Our Gates is a cinematic treasure. Made in response to D. W Griffith’s astoundingly racist Birth of a Nation (Originally titled The Clansman) and the Chicago Race Riots of 1919, Within Our Gates examines the complexity of race relations, the horror of lynch mobs, and helped break some of the black stereotypes being perpetuated in Hollywood at the time.
  • When Oscar Micheaux originally submitted Within Our Gates to the Board of Censors it was rejected. The board feared that the film would incite further race riots like the Chicago race riot. The film was eventually shown after edits were made, there is no known print of the original cut .
  • During a time when blacks were portrayed onscreen only as savages, sambos, mammies, slaves, butlers, magic negros, uncle toms, minstrels, and so on, Oscar Micheaux created refreshingly non-stereotypical roles for black actors and actresses. One of the most moving moments in the film comes when a local black preacher discusses whether or not blacks should have the right to vote. Just to note, the preacher behaves stereotypically but this is done purposefully. Enjoy!
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~ by cinematte on February 13, 2011.

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