Design: All Black Cast Movie Posters, 1930’s – 1950
Often called Race Films, these all-black cast pictures were specifically marketed to black audiences (really?), from about 1915 to 1950, effectively stopping with the Hollywood Antitrust Case of 1948.
In all, approximately five hundred race films were produced. Of these, fewer than one hundred remain. Because race films were produced outside the Hollywood Studio System, they have been largely forgotten by mainstream film historians. The ironic bit being that the vast majority of these pictures were written, produced and directed by white folk. Some black-owned studios existed, including Lincoln Motion Picture Co and most notably the Chicago-based Micheaux Film Corporation, which operated from 1918 – 1940. On the posters, Micheaux advertised that his films were scripted and produced exclusively by African Americans.
In the South, to comply with segregation laws, race movies were screened at designated black theaters. Though northern cities were not formally segregated, race films were generally shown in theaters in black neighborhoods. Many large northern theaters incorporated special balconies reserved for blacks.
While it was rare for race films to be shown to white audiences, white theaters often reserved special time-slots for black moviegoers. This resulted in race films often being screened as matinees and midnight shows shows. During the height of their popularity, race films were shown in as many as 1,100 theaters around the country.