Communicator of the Month: Oscar Micheaux — Race Relator

“It is only by presenting those portions of the race portrayed in my pictures, in the light and background of their true state, that we can raise our people to greater heights.” — Oscar Micheaux

Our Communicator of the Month series showcases individuals who have used communications to work for a better future. In 2013, we’re celebrating filmmakers whose larger-than-life characters and places, both real and imagined, have helped us to value and fight for human rights, environmental protection, gender and racial equity, and world peace.

Born in 1884, Oscar Micheaux was the first African American to produce a feature-length film with “The Homesteader” in 1920. He wrote, produced and directed more than 40 feature-length films between 1919 and 1948.

Recognizing that there were no opportunities for African-Americans to create films, Micheaux established his own movie production company in 1919. He used his films to rebut racism and took on controversial topics such as sexuality, racial crime, corruption and intra-racial discrimination. He also confronted the dominant mainstream discrimination of his day, as his film “Within Our Gates” was a direct response to the racism depicted in the film “Birth of a Nation.”

Before making films, Micheaux wrote seven novels, one of which was a national bestseller, and started his own publishing company to produce and distribute his work. He turned to the new industry of filmmaking to make his stories come to life. He died in 1951.