Movies have been a cornerstone of popular culture for over a century now. They have entertained us, made us cry, and even scared us at times.
However, the history of movies has not always been so inclusive. In the early days of cinema, black people were not often given leading roles or even prominent roles in films.
But when did this start to change? What was the first movie to star a black person?
The answer to that question is “The Homesteader,” a silent film released in 1919. The film was directed by Oscar Micheaux, who is widely regarded as the first major African American filmmaker.
The Homesteader tells the story of Jean Baptiste (played by an African American actor named Charles D. Lucas), a young man who moves from the city to the countryside in hopes of starting a new life as a farmer. Along the way, he falls in love with a young woman named Della (played by an actress named Evelyn Preer). The film deals with themes of race and class, as Jean Baptiste struggles to make a living as a black man in rural America.
The Homesteader was not an instant success upon its release. In fact, it was only shown in a few theaters before being pulled from circulation due to poor box office performance. However, it has since become recognized as an important milestone in cinema history.
So why did it take so long for black people to be given leading roles in movies? The answer is complicated and tied up in the history of racism and segregation in America. For many years, Hollywood studios were run by white men who were more interested in making money than promoting diversity on screen.
It wasn’t until later that African American actors like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte began to break through Hollywood’s color barrier. Today, we continue to see more diverse representation on screen thanks to trailblazers like Micheaux and others who paved the way.
In conclusion, “The Homesteader” was the first movie to star a black person, and it remains an important milestone in cinema history. Despite the challenges that black actors and filmmakers faced in the early days of cinema, they persisted and eventually broke through Hollywood’s color barrier. Today, we continue to see more diverse representation on screen thanks to their efforts.