Researching Black women and film history

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Frymus, Agata
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Film and Screen Media, University College Cork
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My project (Horizon 2020, 2018–20) traces Black female moviegoing in Harlem during the silent film era. The main challenge in uncovering the women’s stories is that historical paradigm has always prioritised the voices of the white, middle-class elite. In the field of Black film history, criticism expressed by male journalists—such as Lester A. Walton of New York Age—has understandably received the most attention (Everett; Field, Uplift). Black, working-class women are notoriously missing from the archive. How do we navigate historical records, with their own limits and absences? This paper argues for a broader engagement with historic artefacts—memoirs, correspondence and recollections—as necessary to re-centre film historiography towards the marginalised. It points to the ways in which we can learn from the scholars and methods of African American history to “fill in the gaps” in the study of historical spectatorship.
Film history , African American , Moviegoing , Silent film , Methodology , Women’s history
Frymus, A. (2021) 'Researching Black women and film history', Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 20, pp. 228-236.