Lucas Museum Acquires Archive of Black Cinema

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has acquired the Separate Cinema Archive, a 37,000-item collection spanning African-American film from 1904 to the present. Posters, lobby cards, stills, scripts, and promotional materials document filmmakers, actors, and musicians from the early 20th century onward: Oscar Micheaux, Booker T. Washington, Josephine Baker, Paul Robeson, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diana Ross, and Spike Lee. Many early films are lost and known only through promotional material.

The archive was assembled by New York commercial photographer and film historian John Duke Kisch. The collection has toured film festivals, and Kisch published a 2014 book, Separate Cinema: The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art.
The Lucas Museum has bought scattered examples of Harlem Renaissance and contemporary art by black artists. But the size of the Separate Cinema Archive has scholarly heft and exhibition potential. This is the first major acquisition announced under recently named LMNA director Sandra Jackson-Dumont.

Coincidentally, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will survey black American film in an upcoming exhibition, "Regeneration: Black Cinema 1900–1970."


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