Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Within Our Gates

The earliest known surviving feature directed by an African-American was probably a response to the racist Birth of a Nation. Pointed contrasts between South and North (the first intertitle places the characters in the North, “where the prejudices and hatreds of the South do not exist—though this does not prevent the occasional lynching of a Negro”) and cuts back and forth between often harrowing scenes make genteel schoolteacher Sylvia Landry (identified in the credits as “the renowned Negro artist Evelyn Preer”) a symbol of her people’s suffering. Her story encompasses lynching, the rape of black women by white men, and the abject kowtowing to powerful whites and casual betrayal of their own people of figures like a gossipy servant and a hypocritical preacher.  Written for Brooklyn Magazine

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