The Life and Work of Oscar Micheaux: Pioneer Black Author and Filmmaker: 1884-1951

Over a three-decade period that began in 1919, Oscar Micheaux wrote, directed, edited, produced and distributed over forty films nationally and internationally. These films usually featured all-Black casts. They spanned a silent film period (1919-1930)and a talkie period (sound films) (1931-1948).The book features a commentary by actor/producer Ossie Davis and was reviewed by Dr. Maya Angelou.

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About Earl James Young Jr.

Earl James Young, Jr. was the eldest son and second child born to Mary Virginia and Earl James Young, Sr. He was born on December 6, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois to poor, but bright and loving parents who would never be able to realize their full potential because of the color of their skin. Earl Sr., a WWII veteran, used his veteran’s benefits to attend Columbia School of Broadcasting, hoping for a job as a radio announcer. He never reached this goal, but he gave his children a love for public speaking. Mary’s gift to her children was a love of books and dreams of using higher education to overcome their poor backgrounds. Earl Jr. and his sister received books instead of toys for every birthday or holiday. While Earl Sr., worked, Mary taught the children to read and write before they attended school. She entertained the children with tales of the rich and famous and exotic places from the novels she read. She often wrote menus on the back of old cardboard pieces and presented them to the children with a dish towel over her arm, posing as a waiter, while she took their orders for dinner and made sure they ate with the correct silverware.
Earl Jr. and his sister read Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and Zora Neale Huston while they were still in elementary school. They had library cards that were worn and tattered long before they went to high school. Every Saturday, Earl and his sister pulled a wagon to the library and exchanged the maximum 10 books, which they devoured before the next weekend. Earl became interested in theater and dance when one of his church members, a professional choreographer, started a dance class for the church youth. The church put on several recitals and musicals to show off the dancing and musical prowess of the young church members. In school, Earl was a scholar who often had to use his fists to fight for the right to be a scholar in the tough neighborhood he grew up in. He had two close friends who shared his love of books and the theater, Ronald Thompson and Joe Willie Wright. They remained friends for life.
Earl received a B.A in Speech Therapy from Rockford College, but was not moved by the thought of a career in that field. He moved to Los Angeles, working as a Bank Operations Officer during the day as he tried to get into the entertainment world at night. Unsuccessful there, he moved to the Bay Area, where he met Danny Duncan and became a member of the Duncan Company. Earl danced and acted with the Duncan Company for several years, working as a financial manager for the company or working in the banking industry when his funds got low. After good runs in several shows in San Francisco, the troupe went to New York to perform “Uhuru”, one of Danny’s most successful shows. They were locked out by the New York stagehands for not having union cards.
After a while, Earl returned to San Francisco, but he was bored with conventional, 9 to 5 jobs. He was very successful, but missed the entertainment industry. He decided to attend Graduate School in Fresno as a Journalism Major and try to find work as a journalist on completion of his Master’s Degree. Oscar Micheaux became the subject of his graduate thesis because Earl admired the spirit of the pioneer Black filmmaker and understood the pain of having the gift, but lacking the opportunity to give one’s all to a career in film and theater. After graduation, he became the General Manager of Bay Cablevision. He left to write a novel about his experiences with the entertainment industry in Hollywood while working as an officer in the Entertainment Division of one of California’s largest banks.
In the fall of 1993, Earl became ill just before a family reunion in Richmond, California on Labor Day. He died of a brain tumor on November 13, 1993.

Videos

TEN MINUTES TO LIVE (1932) OSCAR MICHEAUX FILM
An original work by Micheaux.Presumably l6mm. Sixty-five minutes. Sound. Pearl Bowser reported it to be a statement against womanizing. James Nesteby reported the film to be replete with the stereotypical Black characters, usually associated with the work of early white producers. A woman receives a threatening note in which she is given only "ten minutes to live."

Oscar Micheaux: The Czar of Black Hollywood
This is Part One (of a four-part series of sample excerpts) of a new documentary being released in 2014 based on the legendary Black Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.

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