Rediscovered Footage from 1913 Shows the Earliest Black Feature Film

7 reels of 35-millimeter film sat in the archives of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, gathering dust. When scholars finally examined them, they found something amazing: the raw footage of a never-completed feature film from 1913. What is remarkable about this film is that it had a black cast. In fact, it is the earliest known feature film with a black cast.

It was an untitled silent film, but scholars were able to clearly identify the lead male actor: Bert Williams. Williams was a black star of the Vaudeville entertainment era--a time when that was enormously difficult in America.

When edited, the film would likely have been a 35-40 minute romantic comedy about the character played by Williams wooing an elegant lady played by Odessa Warren Grey. On October 24, the MOMA will open an exhibit about this film, including showings of 60 minutes of the found footage.

-via Lawrence E. Forbes

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