Finding Their Voices:

The Representation of African American Women in Silent Film

Finding Their Voices: The Representation of African American Women in Silent Film is a five-part digital program hosted by the Norman Studios Silent Film Museum in Jacksonville, Florida, and supported by Florida Humanities, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The timely and topical series examines the often radical misrepresentation of Black women in mainstream silent film and reveals the ways that “race filmmakers” such as Floridian Richard E. Norman strove to reverse those demeaning stereotypes and address racial injustices by giving women both a voice and an expanded role in post-World War One society, history, and culture.

Utilizing a variety of multi- and inter-disciplinary perspectives to explore crucial issues of race and gender, Finding Their Voices builds on the Norman Studios’ past work in the Jacksonville community; and it demonstrates how the representation of Black women in early films serves as a microcosm for many of the race problems that persist today. The program comprises five major presentations, each of which is augmented by films, still images, questions designed to inspire and provoke further discussion, and suggestions for additional reading and viewing. The purpose of the series is not only to educate and entertain viewers but also to initiate valuable and ongoing community conversations, which are more necessary than ever in today’s divisive times.

The program topics cover racial stereotyping of women in early Hollywood films and anti-typing in the work of such important if still under-appreciated filmmakers as Richard E. Norman, Oscar Micheaux, the Colored Players Film Corporation, Eloyce Patrick King Gist, and Zora Neale Hurston. Among the speakers are distinguished and prolific film scholars Dr. Gerald R. Butters, Jr. (Aurora University), Dr. Christina N. Baker (University of California, Merced), Ken Fox (Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY), and Dr. Barbara Tepa Lupack (former Academic Dean at SUNY and New York State Public Scholar). The exhibit was designed by Cher Davis, owner and founder of Brand U Love, who serves on the NSSFM’s Board of Advisors.

For further information about the Norman Studios Digital Resource Center or to inquire about reprint permissions, please contact Barbara Tepa Lupack, Program Director and NSDRC Editor, at



Funding for this program is provided through a grant from Florida Humanities with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of Florida Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

One of the few surviving silent film studios (and the only surviving race film studio), the Norman Studios Silent Film Museum celebrates the contributions of filmmaker Richard E. Norman to American film and popular culture as well as Florida’s rich film heritage and encourages collaboration and networking among filmmakers and film enthusiasts.