Oscar Micheaux, born January 2, 1884, was a pioneering African-American independent Author and Filmmaker, who played an important role and a prolific contributor to the early Black American cinema.
According to NAACP, Micheaux was born near Metropolis, Illinois, and grew up in Great Bend, Kansas, as one of 11 children of former slaves.
Prior to becoming a filmmaker, Micheaux worked as a shoeshine boy, a farmworker and a Pullman. He began writing stories when he worked on a farm in an all-white area of South Dakota. Due to restrictions on blacks at that time, the only way to get his work out was to form his own publishing company.
He formed his own movie production company too, intrigued by motion as a way to tell his stories. In 1919, he became the first African American to make a film. He wrote, directed and produced his first silent motion picture ‘The Homesteader’, which also starred the pioneering African American actress Evelyn Preer and a host of African-American actors with the aim of it being an all-black movie.
NAACP wrote that Micheaux’s “accomplishment in Publishing and Film are extraordinary, including being the first African-American to produce a film shown in ‘white’ theaters.” But most importantly he moved away from the stereotypical black depictions and also used his movies to respond to racism.
The Producers Guild of America called him the most prolific black, if not prolific independent filmmaker in American cinema.
Over his career span, Micheaux wrote, produced and directed 44 feature-length films between 1919 and 1948 and wrote seven novels, one of which was a national bestseller.
He died of a heart attack in Charlotte, North Carolina, while on a business trip. His body was returned to Great Bend, Kansas where he was buried.