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Oscar Micheaux, The Exile, and the Black Western Race Film

Oscar Micheaux, The Exile, and the Black Western Race Film

Chapter:
(p.127) 5 Oscar Micheaux, The Exile, and the Black Western Race Film
Source:
Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos
Author(s):
Michael K. Johnson
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781617039287.003.0006

This chapter traces a group of conventions common to “race film” westerns from their origins in Oscar Micheaux’s films set in South Dakota—his silent era The Homesteader and The Symbol of the Unconquered and his sound era film The Exile—to their evolution in later race films of the 1930s and 1940s.Whereas Micheaux’s silent films are indeed frontier stories of conquest and homesteading, the narrative emphasis in later race films (including Micheaux’s The Exile) shifts from the West to the East, from frontier to city. The Exile represents East and West not in opposition but as alternate frontier spaces, each one offering opportunity for the entrepreneur. The vision of the frontier as an abstract representation of black freedom and opportunity provides a model for later race movies such as Two-Gun Man From Harlem which similarly imagine both the rural West and the urban East as appealing frontier spaces.

Keywords:   Oscar Micheaux, Race Film, Frontier, Silent Film, Western

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