Week 2: (November 7-11) – Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title (or another nonfiction!). It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. Or pair a book with a podcast, film or documentary, TV show, etc. on the same topic or stories that pair together. (here with me, Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction)

“Beginning in 1915 with D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation–which glorified the Ku Klux Klan and became Hollywood’s first blockbuster–Wil Haygood gives us an incisive, fascinating, little-known history, spanning more than a century, of Black artists in the film business, on-screen and behind the scenes.

He makes clear the effects of changing social realities and events on the business of making movies and on what was represented on the screen: from Jim Crow and segregation to white flight and interracial relationships, from the assassination of Malcolm X, to the O. J. Simpson trial, to the Black Lives Matter movement. He considers the films themselves–including Imitation of Life, Gone with the Wind, Porgy and Bess, the Blaxploitation films of the seventies, Do The Right Thing, 12 Years a Slave, and Black Panther. And he brings to new light the careers and significance of a wide range of historic and contemporary figures: Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier, Berry Gordy, Alex Haley, Spike Lee, Billy Dee Willliams, Richard Pryor, Halle Berry, Ava DuVernay, and Jordan Peele, among many others.”

This book was so good. If you are at all into movies this look at the history of Black people in Hollywood is eye-opening.

The one person that the blurb above doesn’t mention but who is covered extensively in the book is Oscar Micheaux. He was one of the first African-American film makers. He started making films because he was a writer who wanted to see his novels made into films. No one would do it so he did it himself. He also founded a chain of movie theaters to play Black films.

Wild Women and the Blues

“1925: Chicago is the jazz capital of the world, and the Dreamland Café is the ritziest black-and-tan club in town. Honoree Dalcour is a sharecropper’s daughter, willing to work hard and dance every night on her way to the top. Dreamland offers a path to the good life, socializing with celebrities like Louis Armstrong and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. But Chicago is also awash in bootleg whiskey, gambling, and gangsters. And a young woman driven by ambition might risk more than she can stand to lose.

2015: Film student Sawyer Hayes arrives at the bedside of 110-year-old Honoree Dalcour, still reeling from a devastating loss that has taken him right to the brink. Sawyer has rested all his hope on this frail but formidable woman, the only living link to the legendary Oscar Micheaux. If he’s right—if she can fill in the blanks in his research, perhaps he can complete his thesis and begin a new chapter in his life. But the links Honoree makes are not ones he’s expecting . . .”

I happened to have read this novel before I picked up Colorization. I didn’t know anything about Oscar Micheaux at the time other than what I picked up in this story. As soon as the section on him started in Colorization I knew exactly what I was going to pick for Nonfiction November Book Pairing this year.

He was a fascinating man. He basically created an entire industry just to promote his own work. He made a way for Black people to see movies in places other than in segregated white-owned theaters. He also helped bring about a Black film industry.

He was an interesting man who deserves to be remembered more in film and popular history.