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Sin City Cinema

Sin City Cinema

The Underworld Race Films of Oscar Micheaux and Ralph Cooper

Chapter:
(p.51) 2 Sin City Cinema
Source:
Under a Bad Sign
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226550374.003.0003

This chapter examines the race films in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. It analyzes several such films including Within Our Gates directed by Oscar Micheaux, Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith, and Dark Manhattan by Ralph Cooper. The chapter argues that Cooper and Micheaux should be considered as a revised point of origin for any discussion on the meaning of criminal self-representation in African American cinema. It also contends that talking race films undermined ontological notions of race including the prejudicial assumption that black folk could not master the technologies of mass representation.

Keywords:   race films, United States, Within Our Gates, Oscar Micheaux, Birth of Nation, D.W. Griffith, Dark Manhattan, Ralph Cooper, criminal self-representation, African American cinema

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