PROJECT: Early African American Film: Reconstructing the History of Silent Race Films, 1909-1930

A story at the UCLA Daily Bruin details the development and release of Early African American Film: Reconstructing the History of Silent Race Films, 1909-1930.

Seven digital humanities students found 759 entertainment industry professionals involved in early silent race films and compiled them into a centralized database for the first time.

The students, as well as the digital humanities program coordinator Miriam Posner used the information they collected at the Charles E. Young Research Library to create what is now the only online database on the topic of early race films. Students Marika Cifor, Shanya Norman, Hanna Girma, Monica Berry, Karla Contreras, William Lam and Aya Grace Yoshioka started the project this spring as their digital humanities capstone project and finished it in June.

The database, titled “Early African American Film: Reconstructing the History of Silent Race Films, 1909-1930,” also includes relational data and is accessible to the public, including students, archives and scholars. Members of the group hope the site will be a way for people to learn more about a part of film history that ordinarily has little to no coverage, graduate student Cifor said.

The data is available for download and reuse under a CC-BY 4.0 license, and the project team has provided background information on Race Films and tutorials for using and visualizing that dataset.

Patrick Williams

Patrick Williams

Patrick Williams is Associate Librarian for Literature, Rhetoric, and Digital Humanities in the Syracuse University Libraries. He received his MSIS and PhD in Information Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. He is the editor of the poetry journal Really System.