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Filmmaker with Roanoke ties featured in new motion picture museum

Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 7:36 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Take a walk on Roanoke’s Henry Street, and you will see Oscar Micheaux’s name.

Not on the marquee of what was once The Strand Theatre, but on the Virginia historical marker that stands just outside the building that once served as his headquarters.

100 years ago, Micheaux moved his office to Roanoke. Between 1922 and 1925, he produced as many as six full-length films here.

Oscar Micheaux is also front and center in Los Angeles at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. He’s among the first to be featured in the museum exhibition, ‘Significant Movies and Moviemakers.’

Jacqueline Stewart is a cinema scholar, University of Chicago Professor and the Chief Artistic and Programming Officer of the Academy Museum.

“So folks see Rosebud from Citizen Kane. They learn about the work of Bruce Lee. And Oscar Micheaux is right there,” Stewart told WDBJ7 in an interview. “We thought it was essential to have him as part of the opening exhibitions in that way.”

She said Micheaux was a prolific and pivotal filmmaker, who set the stage for many who followed.

“For black audiences in the first half of the 20th Century, Oscar Micheaux was huge,” Stewart said. “He was making these all Black-cast films. He was funding them. He was writing them. He was promoting them. He’s an incredible role model.”

Micheaux made more than 40 films, both silent and sound. Only about half of them survive.

But a career that spanned 30 years, and included a productive period in Roanoke, is receiving fresh attention on a national stage.

“We want to demonstrate that film history has many different threads... filmmakers of all backgrounds… and that films have been entertaining and they’ve been educational and they’ve even galvanized social change,” Stewart said. “And that’s definitely true for Oscar Micheaux’s work.”

To learn more about the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, click on the following link.

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