#8 Within Our Gates (1920)

Do you know what filmmaker was influenced the most by D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation? Oscar Micheaux. But not in the way that other filmmakers feel influenced. Oscar Micheaux made his film “Within Our Gates” to show audiences the truth about what black people really are like in contemporary American society. That black people can fit into society without having to be someone’s maid or servant. That they’re people too. Oscar Micheaux wanted to set the record straight on how white people view black people and to bring his own perspective to the mainstream audience. Write in the comments how you feel about Micheaux using the film media to take a stand and if this mission was accomplished?

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This film is about a black woman who tries to raise money for black kids to get an education but is forced to open up about her tough childhood that could be a threat to her African-American identity. I liked how this film brought awareness to the horrors that black people went through during the 20s such as lynching and underfunding for black students to be educated. Write in the comments what black people were going through in the 1920s and you’ll understand why this was a story that needed to be seen and heard. That the difference between blacks and whites is not in who they are as people but how they are viewed by society and the experiences they face. These people had respectable jobs that didn’t involve waiting on people and they were portrayed as educational.  

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Critics were afraid that this film would bring about race riots so it was banned in certain areas like Omaha. Here is how Oscar Micheaux’s film is different than Birth of a Nation- this film has no white-face, no stereotypes, and no negativity. It is merely Micheaux telling his audience that he is acting as the “New Negro” in that he refuses to be silent about the serious issues that black people face and we are just telling the story from our side in its honest light. Write in if you agree or disagree this film has made an impact for the better or worse.

So I recommend seeing this film considering how a rarity it is to see an all-black cast that’s seen as everyday members of society instead of someone’s slave or maid. That there are no other films like this that have still made an impact today.

Here is one of the first race films made and please comment your opinion of the film: 

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