Best movies: The Homesteader (1919), Within Our Gates (1920), Body and Soul (1925)

Something tells us that, if randomly surveyed on a street corner or in a multiplex, many film lovers wouldn’t be able to successfully answer the following question: Who was the first-ever black director?

The answer is Oscar Micheaux, an Illinois author who, after producers expressed interest in adapting his 1918 novel The Homesteader but wouldn’t allow him to be directly involved, founded the Micheaux Film and Book Company, directed The Homesteader himself, and single-handedly began the history of black filmmakers.

After The Homsteader, Micheaux produced over 40 movies, from silent flicks to “talkies,” all of which tackled issues of racism head-on but from his own unique perspective. At the time, black characters in cinema were being depicted stereotypically from the perspectives of white directors, giving Micheaux’s much-needed, alternative point-of-view an importance one is unable to overstate.