Cara Caddoo

Associate Professor, Department of History

Associate Professor, Media School

Department of History

  • Ballantine Hall 851
    1020 E Kirkwood Ave
    Bloomington, IN47405
  • Office Hours
    M onday
    Th ursday
IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

I am an historian of film, mass media, and twentieth century American history. My first book, Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life, is a history of early African American cinema from the 1890s to the 1930s. In the late nineteenth century, an era marked by mass migration and Jim Crow segregation, African Americans were pioneers of American cinema. They produced and exhibited their own motion pictures, often transforming black churches into motion picture theaters during off hours. These film exhibitions raised money for black institutions, created shared social experiences, and broadcast ideas about racial uplift. As African Americans integrated the moving pictures into their aspirations for black progress, a vibrant black cinema culture developed across the pathways of turn-of-the-century migration. These developments informed the first mass black protest movement of the twentieth century, which politicized the demand for visual self-representation and articulated the belief that mischaracterizations in film constituted "civil death" and a violation of "natural rights."

Honors and Awards

  • 2015 Faculty Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • 2015 Vincent J. DeSantis Prize for the Best Book on the History of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Research Interests

  • Diaspora and Race
  • African American History
  • Native American and Indigenous Studies
  • Film, Media and Popular Culture


  • Ph.D., History, The Graduate Center, City University of New York (2013)
  • M.A., Integrated Media Arts, Hunter College, City University of New York (2007)
  • M.A., African American Studies, Columbia University (2005)

Courses Taught

  • U.S. Advertising, PR, and Propaganda



  • Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).
  • "Put Together to Please a Colored Audience": Black Churches, Motion Pictures, and Migration at the Turn of the Twentieth Century," Journal of American History, December 2014.