I am an historian of film, mass media, race, and African 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."
Associate Professor, Department of History
Associate Professor, Media School
Department of History