Silent Movie Shows the Earliest Depiction of African American Affection Captured on Film

Researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California recently discovered a silent movie that was filmed in 1898. The film, entitled Something Good-Negro Kiss, is believed to be earliest depiction of African American affection captured on film.

The African American couple appears on screen for less than 30 seconds. The man dressed in a suit and bow tie and the woman had on a frilled dress. They hug and kiss and then kiss again.

The footage was discovered by Dino Everett, an archivist at the University of Southern California, who found the 19th-century nitrate print within a batch of silent films he had acquired from a Louisiana collector nearly three years earlier. Everett consulted with Allyson Nadia Field, now an associate professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Chicago and an expert on African-American cinema, who helped identify the film and its historical significance.

Dr. Field stated that “it was remarkable to me how well the film was preserved, and also what the actors were doing. There’s a performance there because they’re dancing with one another, but their kissing has an unmistakable sense of naturalness, pleasure, and amusement as well.”

Dr. Field is the author of Uplift Cinema: The Emergence of African American Film and The Possibility of Black Modernity (Duke University Press, 2015).

The film is among the latest additions to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. The 29-second film clip showing the African American couple may be seen below.

 

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  1. Carolyn Grimstead says:

    Another early film fragment which was never released features the iconic actor Bert Williams (in blackface) kissing an actress in a courtship sequence. The film fragment was discovered in the film archives of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The clip was shared with a Brooklyn Academy of Music film festival audience last year. As interest increases perhaps more archival material will emerge.

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