In 1920, Oscar Micheaux directed the release of an American silent film known as Within our Gates. The film portrayed the existence of racial discrimination and prejudice in the early 20th century. The film is also regarded as a race film, and it was produced during the era of Jim Crow, the Great Migration of the Blacks to Northern and Midwest Cities, and the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan. The director incorporated massive stereotypes that are associated with the black people in the US. The paper will entail a detailed analysis of Within our Gates film by providing a comprehensive analysis of the racial incidences and stereotypes integrated within the movie.
The film encompasses two major themes. First, the director centers on the representation of racial discrimination and prejudice towards the black Americans. The other major theme talks about the alternative representation of black manhood. As a result, the film is regarded as a highly confrontational and scandalous movie by the whites. The film elicited mixed reactions from the population since it was released just after the 1919 riots and this led to its censoring (Butters Jr and Gerald).
Sylvia Landry is the protagonist in the film as most of the events revolves around her. It is saddening to note that Sylvia’s parents were lynched due to white supremacy in the states. The filmmaker expresses the African American manhood through the male figures that come into her life. At the beginning of the film, Sylvia secretly falls in love with a lover of her friend. Due to the conspiracy linked to the secret affair, the heroine is only left with one option of relocating to the South. After some time, Sylvia travels to the North to seek for financial assistance to help a rural school situated in the Deep South so that the children of the poor, mostly blacks, could have access to education. In the process, she meets Dr. Vivian, they fall in love, and later on, she is ready to marry him.
Contrary to other regions, most of the people in the south were illiterate, and the majority of black children in the region could not read. The protagonist believed that seeking for funds to promote education in could eliminate ignorance and superstition (Butters Jr and Gerald). The blacks and other color races suffered from the lynch law reign supreme which remained protective to the white population. The director pinpoints how racial prejudice affected geographic distinctions in America. He preferred blacks to settle in the west as the whites mostly occupied the north and the levels of racial hostility had immensely increased in the South.
Within our Gates film describe the reality of the American life in the early 20th century. The film demonstrates massive prejudices in the South and other parts of the U.S. it also indicates the suffrage of the black woman and how Negroes were considered inferior beings as compared to the whites. The film also raises concerns over the lack of rights for the blacks. During this time, the constitution did not allow blacks to either contest or vote in the elections. Micheaux uses this factor and unifies the blacks so that they could advocate for equality and other human rights. The film exhibits the journey to end racial discrimination in the U.S and the role of the blacks towards the achievement of democracy and human rights.
Butters Jr, Gerald R. "From Homestead to Lynch Mob: Portrayals of Black Masculinity in Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates." Journal for MultiMedia History (2000).