Monday, November 03, 2014

Interview: Cara Caddoo

Author and professor Jason McGraw interviewed the historian Cara Caddoo about her new book, Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life.

From the Q & A:
What is the story you tell in your book?

Before Oscar Micheaux, or Hollywood, or even the nickelodeon theater, African Americans exhibited and produced their own motion pictures. This began in the 1890s, shortly after the Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson “separate but equal” decision, when hundreds of thousands of black migrants were leaving the countryside. In cities across the South and West, film became a way that black folk could have fun together, fundraise for their organizations, and broadcast ideas about black progress.

This history helps explain the responses of African Americans to D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film Birth of Nation. In what effectively became the first mass black protest movement of the twentieth century—we’re talking railroad porters, housewives, gangsters, and schoolchildren—African Americans weren’t just reacting to a terrible new medium they knew nothing about; they were fighting to reclaim a form of popular culture that they had helped to create. The demands and political organizations that emerged from those protests were...[read on]
Learn more about Envisioning Freedom at the Harvard University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Envisioning Freedom.

--Marshal Zeringue