Sylvia Landry is adopted by Black sharecroppers. She is mixed-race. Her new parents love her as their own. Despite the rigors of sharecropping, they raise her well. Sylvia becomes a schoolteacher. She travels to Boston to raise money for a new school and on her trip, she is hit by a car. The white woman driving is overcome with guilt and writes a $50,000 check to support Sylvia’s school. Her father is wary of the charity and tired of the struggle. One day he has enough and confronts their white landlord over money. A fight ensues. The landlord is shot by another white man, but Sylvia's adoptive father is accused and lynched with her adoptive mother. In her despair, Sylvia is cornered and narrowly escapes attempted raped by the landowner's brother. She discovers that the attacker is her biological father.
This is the plot of a silent film by Oscar Micheaux in 1920.
It was a smash hit.
A brilliant Black family. Self-sufficient. Serving their community. Rejecting handouts. Fighting back. Loving hard. And suffering under the terror of white supremacy.
It was a brave answer to The Birth of a Nation, the first Hollywood blockbuster, which served as Klan propaganda and stoked fear of Black liberation.
Oscar Micheaux was unafraid.
He made race films at the height of lynching in America.
He was an author…
…of 44 films.
The most successful Black filmmaker of the first half of the 20th century.
Join us as we learn how he rallied the resources and crew to do it.