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Information regarding remaining race films, including full-length videos and quick links to more information.
Welcome to Grafton Library's Race Films Guide
While the influence of race films can still be observed in the film world today, they primarily emerged in the early 1900's and continued into the 1960's. Race films are films that were created for an African American audience, with an all African American cast. Because of the film industry's failure to properly represent people of color, it is important to review the history of true representation.
Race films were largely popular to black theater-goers in the 1900's, and nearly five hundred films were made in total. Unfortunately, only about one hundred remain today due to the lack of archival preservation of films made outside of mainstream Hollywood. You can explore those race films freely available or available through Grafton's databases here.
Titles without films will take you to the IMDB page where one exists. Hover over the i icon for more information.
Natural Born Gambler (1916)A lovable scoundrel is busted for gambling and thrown into jail, where he dreams of playing poker - but even in his dreams, he loses.
Within Our Gates (1920)Abandoned by her fiancé, an educated black woman with a shocking past dedicates herself to helping a near bankrupt school for impoverished black youths.
The Scar Of Shame (1927)An educated, upscale young black musician marries a woman from a lower socioeconomic class to get her out of the clutches of her abusive stepfather. Unbeknownst to his new lover, his judgmental mother has her own inhibitions about him marrying someone "below his station".
The Framing of the Shrew (1929)Privacy Robson is a downtrodden husband who takes advice from his friend Florian Slappey. He eventually gets the upper hand after starting divorce proceedings, pretending to have a new girlfriend and refusing to eat anything she cooks him.
Music Hath Harms (1929)Roscoe Griggers puts himself forward as a great musician but when he is offered a large amount of money to play, he hires a real musician to play beneath his stage while he pretends. When his rivals get wind of this, his performance is in danger.
Ten Minutes to Live (1932)A movie producer offers a nightclub singer a role in his latest film, but all he really wants to do is bed her. She knows, but accepts anyway. Meanwhile, a patron at the club gets a note saying that she will be killed.
Jitterbug Party (1935)Cab Calloway performs two numbers at the Cotton Club, then takes his friends down to Harlem for a jitterbug party.
Murder in Harlem (1935)A black night watchman at a chemical factory finds the body of a murdered white woman. What he didn't expect was to be accused for her murder.
Sanders of the River (1935)Paul Robeson plays Bosambo, a self-appointed leader of the river people who respects "Sandi," the representative of the English crown in this part of West Africa. Complications arise when a bellicose tribal chief foments bloody rebellion by attacking Bosambo's people, and kidnapping his wife.
Symphony in Black (1935)Duke Ellington plays his symphonic jazz piece "A Rhapsody of Negro Life" with his orchestra against slice-of-life background scenes.
The Black Network (1936)The owner of a shoe polish company sponsors a radio show that showcases black performers. Since his wife's father put up the money to be the sponsor, she insists on singing on the show. Unfortunately for her, no level of prestige can make up for her lack of talent.
The Broken Earth (1936)A farmer (Clarence Muse) comes from the fields to find his young son dying. He prays to the Lord to save his only child.
Big Fella (1937)A wanderer (Paul Robeson) and his friend (Elisabeth Welch) shelter a runaway who doesn't wish to return to his parents.
Dark Manhattan (1937)A Harlem gangster rises to power, but conflict ensues as his former associates move in for the kill.
Hi De Ho (1937)Young Cab Calloway's mother is concerned, because Cab spends his days listening to the radio, pretending to lead a miniature orchestra. A deacon passing by the apartment hears him singing and advises him go to his wife's gypsy tea room. As she reads the tea leaves, she sees situations which lead to Cab and his orchestra performing musical numbers.
Dark Sands (1937)Paul Robeson portrays Jericho, a falsely convicted soldier who flees from war time France to Africa.
Underworld (1937)A young man, graduate of a Southern black college, becomes a part of the Chicago underworld.
We Work Again (1937)A tribute to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in their efforts to find jobs for African-Americans during the Great Depression of the 1930's.
Swing! (1938)Ted Gregory wants to be the first black producer to mount a show on Broadway, but he has trouble with his star singer.
Two-Gun Man From Harlem (1938)A cowboy is wrongfully accused of murder, and winds up in Harlem where he assumes the identity of a preacher-turned-gangster. He uses his new identity to infiltrate the gang, and catch the men who framed him.
The Devil's Daughter (1939)After her father's death, a woman returns to Jamaica to run his banana plantation. Out of jealousy and spite, her stepsister attempts to banish her using voodoo.
Double Deal (1939)A gangster is double-crossed and ends up on the wrong end of a policeman's gun.
Paradise In Harlem (1939)Comedian Lem Anderson's long-awaited dramatic act vanishes when he witnesses a mob killing and is forced to leave town.
Straight to Heaven (1939)Joe Williams is a chemist who recently lost his job to George Elliott. When George shows up dead, Joe is is the first suspect. The plot shifts when Joe's wife, Ida, infiltrates the gang that framed her husband and attempts to prove Joe's innocence.
Broken Strings (1940)A black violinist injures his hands in an automobile accident, and his son and pupils work frivilously to raise money for his operation.
Gang War (1940)Two rival gangs struggle to control the jukebox machines in Harlem
Mystery In Swing (1940)In and around some great blues, a very unpopular band-leader, Prince Ellis, is killed in a Harlem nightclub. In an attempt to find the perpetrator, a detective finds the list of suspects is very long, as Prince Ellis was indeed very unpopular with many citizens.
The Proud Valley (1940)Paul Robeson is called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice when a pit disaster threatens the town.
Son of Ingagi (1940)A newlywed couple is visited by a strange old woman who harbors a secret about the young girl's father.
Sunday Sinners (1940)A local preacher turns a blind eye to a nightclub so long as they stay closed on the Sabbath, but finds himself in hot water when the nightclub disobeys his wishes. Meanwhile the club owner has other problems on his plate, including a gang who wants to provide protection.
The Blood of Jesus (1941)A godly young woman in the rural south is accidentally shot by her husband. As she lies dying, an angel takes her soul on a symbolic journey, and the devil attempts to lure her with earthy temptations.
Lucky Ghost (1941)Two down-on-their luck friends suddenly hit the jackpot when they win the clothes, car and chauffeur of a rich man in a game of dice. They wind up in a sanitarium that's being used as an exclusive, though illegal, gambling club and get mixed up with beautiful women, jealous gangsters and ghosts.
Murder on Lenox Avenue (1941)Dramatic events unravel in a Harlem apartment house when Pa Wilkins is chosen by the Better Business League to replace their ousted, crooked leader Marshall.
Henry Browne, Farmer (1942)Documentary short film dramatizing the efforts of a black farmer and his family to help the American war effort by increasing production.
Negro Colleges In Wartime (1943)This 1940s educational film produced by the Office of War Information Bureau of Motion Pictures looks at how black universities across the country changed their curriculum during World War II.
The Negro Pilots (Tuskegee Pilots) (1943)At a dusty, booming airdrome in the Southeast Air Forces Training Center, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, world’s first Negro aerial fighting unit, is girding for its opening sky-joust with the enemy.
Strictly G.I. (1943)A filmed broadcast of the Command Performance radio programs in which various Hollywood stars appeared and performed in accordance with letter requests from American service men stationed around the world.
Where's My Man Tonight? (1943)Sergeant Robert L. Keen, an officer of the African-American 25th Regiment, is sent to many states on a recruitment tour.
Boogie-Woogie Dream (1944)After hours at a nightclub, the hired help have a jam session, which proves to be just what a couple of belated customers wanted to hear.
Go Down Death (1944)A bar owner attempts to discredit the new preacher with whom he is feuding by framing him with a photograph showing him drinking with scandalous women.
The Girl In Room 20 (1946)A girl from a small town in Texas, moves to New York City to pursue her dream of becoming a singer. However, her dreams prove to be far more difficult to realize than she had ever imagined.
Midnight Menace (1946)A strange voodoo man can kill women and then move their bodies wherever he wants. This time, he just wants to torment Lollypop Jones with a body that keeps showing up no matter where he goes.
Native Son (1951)In 1940s Chicago, a young black man takes a job as a chauffeur to a white family, which takes a turn for the worse when he accidentally kills the teenage daughter of the couple and then tries to cover it up.