Today, if you ask most people who was the first Black man to start a Motion Picture Company, there is a good chance that many will say Tyler Perry, referring to his studio in Atlanta Georgia. While the opening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta is certainly a commendable accomplishment, he is not the first Black man to accomplish that fete.
Oscar Devereaux Micheaux, who lived from January 2, 1884 to March 25, 1951 was was an American author, film director and independent producer. He produced more than 44 films. The Lincoln Motion Picture Company produced films for a short time but it was the first major Black owned motion picture company and Oscar Devereaux Micheaux was known as the most successful African-American filmmaker of the first half of the twentieth century. He was also known as the most prominent producer of race films.
The fifth of eleven children, Oscar Micheaux’s grandparents and parents had been slaves. Micheaux worked in an auto factory, a coal mine, and as a porter, gradually saving enough from his meager wages to buy a small farmstead in virtually all-white South Dakota, where a drought drove him bankrupt. He wrote of his adventures in several books which he published himself, most notably The Homesteader, and in 1919, with no motion picture experience, he filmed his novel on location in South Dakota — the first feature film made for black audiences by an all-black cast and crew. With that film’s success, Micheaux became a moviemaker for the rest of his life, making at least 44 independent action films, dramas, and mysteries that were virtually unseen and unknown to white audiences but drew a steady and profitable box office at about 400 black-owned theaters in America, and in “midnight shows” for black audiences in white-owned theaters.