Friday, May 29, 2015

The Lincoln Motion Picture company, a first for Black cinema

Staff of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company
(via African American Registry)

The Lincoln Motion Picture Company was founded on this date in 1916, the first movie company owned and controlled by Black filmmakers. Lincoln was the creation of African American actor Noble Johnson and his brother George Johnson (a postal employee in Omaha). Lincoln Films built a reputation for making films that showcased African American talent in the full sphere of cinema. Noble Johnson was president of the company, the secretary was actor Clarence A. Brooks. Dr. James T. Smith was treasurer, and Dudley A. Brooks was assistant secretary. Incorporated in January 1917, Lincoln Motion Picture Company was given approval to issue 25,000 shares of common stock on April 30, 1917. 

 The first Lincoln production was a drama called "The Realization of a Negro's Ambition" (1916). The second was titled, "A Trooper of Troop K," (1917), which dealt with a massacre of Black troops in the Army's 10th Cavalry during the American operation against Mexican bandits and revolutionaries in 1916. Although the Johnson brothers wanted the films to play to wider audiences, they were mostly booked in special locations at churches and schools and the few "Colored Only" theaters in America. By 1920, the Lincoln company had completed five films, including "A Man's Duty" (1919), but it proved to be a minor business operation. 

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