Micheaux’s narrative manner is as daring as his subject matter, with flashbacks and interpolations amplifying the story; a remarkable twist regarding Sylvia’s identity, slipped in at the end, opens up a nearly hallucinatory historical vortex.

— Richard Brody, The New Yorker

Within Our Gates

Film • Jan 20

Buy Tickets

Join us for a screening of Within Our Gates in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“The oldest known surviving film made by an African-American director, Within Our Gates is a searing account of the US racial situation during the early twentieth century, including the years of Jim Crow, the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, the Great Migration of Southern blacks to cities in the North, and the emergence of the “New Negro.” Directed by Oscar Micheaux, the film is one of the earliest and finest examples in the genre of “race films.” Produced outside the main Hollywood machine, these films were purposefully made for an all-black audience, featured black actors, and became important arenas through which representations of African-Americans in mass culture were contested.

The plot of Within Our Gates centers around a mixed-race school teacher named Sylvia Landry who travels North to seek funds for a rural school in the Deep South for poor black children. Falling in love with a black doctor (who is “passionately engaged in social questions”), she reveals her family’s past, including the lynchings of her parents and the story behind her own European ancestry.” – The Public Domain Review

Join us after the film for a conversation with Dr. Scott Trafton, Associate Professor of English and African American Studies.

“The film is both a landmark of African American cinema and, as a rebuttal to D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, a perfect example of how black filmmakers spoke back to mainstreamed racism. I’ll be highlighting the film’s themes of race, class, sectionalism, and the politics of racial uplift at the dawn of Jim Crow.” – Dr. Trafton

Hip-hop artist, DJ, and writer Preach Jacobs will score this silent film with an influx of socially conscious hip-hop, funk, soul, and blues. Preach is a contributor to the Free-Times with his column “Fight the Power.”

1920. USA. 79 minutes. Not Rated.