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Academy Museum of Motion Pictures to Debut New Exhibit Celebrating Black History in the Film World

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The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is set to debut a new exhibit today that’s focused on Black history throughout the film industry.

Created alongside members of Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and an advisory panel composed of figures like filmmakers Ava DuVernay and Charles Burnett, “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971” details the history of Black cinema starting from its earliest incarnation to just after the civil rights movement. 

Through the display, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is focused on offering a deeper look into the lives and work of Black pioneering filmmakers and actors all the way from the works of Oscar Micheaux to those of Melvin Van Peebles. 

At the same time, “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971” also expands on discussions about events surrounding the film world, such as the civil rights movement, and explores the impact of Black filmmaking on modern times by interweaving in visuals from contemporary art.

Composed mostly of memorabilia, the exhibit features items such as Sammy Davis Jr.’s costume from the movie “Porgy and Bess,” tap shoes that were once worn by the Nicholas Brothers, Louis Armstrong’s custom-made Henri Selmer B-flat trumpet and the late Sidney Poiter’s Oscar for “Lillies of the Field” amongst others. Other actors that aren’t as known in mainstream culture, such as Francine Everett, Ralph Cooper and Francine Clarence Brooks, are celebrated as well. 

“This landmark exhibition seeks to restore lost chapters of American film history as it elevates the contributions of Black artists to present a more inclusive story,” said the Programming Officer of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Jacqueline Stewart, in a statement.

“We are incredibly proud to present Regeneration, an exhibition that demonstrates how the Academy Museum introduces new scholarship, offers a more expansive vision of American film history, and encourages public dialogue about the past and present of film as an art form and a social force,” she added.

In addition to offering a microsite for anyone interested in the exhibit to learn more about the stories of the people discussed, the museum has planned multiple opening day events for attendees to take part in the celebration of the exhibit. 

Along with a button-making and postcard-making workshop dedicated to the Nicholas Brother, dancer Lena Horne, Academy Award-winning actor Hattie McDaniel and jazz legend Louis Armstrong, the Academy Museum is offering a tap dancing lesson taught by Fayard Nicholas’ granddaughter followed by tap dancing performances. The vice president of Curatorial Affairs, Doris Berger, and director of Curatorial Affairs at the National Portrait Gallery, J. Raul Guzman, are also slated to hold a panel discussing the creation of the exhibit. 

From its opening on Aug. 21, “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971” is scheduled to run until April 9, 2023.

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