Guide to the Thomas Cripps papers, 1839-2009 and undated, bulk 1940s-2009
Retired professor of history at Morgan State University, scholar of the history of African Americans in the motion picture industry, prolific author of books and articles on the subject, and script writer.
The papers of Thomas Cripps date from 1839 to 2009, and are arranged into three divisions: films, photographic stills of African American actors and productions, and professional papers, the largest group. Taken as a whole, the films, movie stills, research files, and publication files document Cripps's investigations into representations of racial and ethnic stereotypes in popular culture, particularly in film, but also touch on other issues such as gender in popular culture, portrayal of race in Nazi Germany, and the social dimensions of African American life in the U.S. during the 20th century. Other materials stem from college-level courses taught by Cripps on these same topics, and include many of the visual resources he used in his classes. Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
- Cripps, Thomas
- Thomas Cripps papers, 1839-2009 and undated, bulk 1940s-2009
- Language of Material
- 87.7 Linear Feet, Approximately 62,475 Items
- For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
- Correspondence Series, 1971-2007 and undated [CLOSED]
- Dissertation and Research Series, circa 1960s [CLOSED]
- Films Series, circa 1898-1968
- Morgan State University Series, 1974-1995 and undated [CLOSED]
- Other Papers and Audiovisual Materials Series, 1966-1993 [CLOSED]
- Still Photographs Series, 1839-1989
- Subject Files Series, 1928-2009 and undated [CLOSED]
- Writings Series, 1979 and undated [CLOSED]
The Thomas Cripps collection dates from approximately 1839 to 2009, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1940-2009, and is arranged into three main divisions: films, photographic stills of African American actors and productions, and professional papers, which is the largest group of the three (closed pending processing). The materials as a whole can be used to study a variety of themes and subjects: racial or ethnic stereotypes in popular culture (chiefly African American, but also Jewish, Irish, and Asian); American and European television culture, broadcasting, and advertising; African American artists; African American film-makers, most notably Oscar Micheaux; U.S. political and social events in the 20th century, including the Depression and the Civil Rights Movement; educational institutions for African Americans; and the teaching of African American history in U.S. higher education. There are significant research materials on Nazi Germany propaganda and the portrayal of race in the party's films.
The thirty-seven films found in the Films Series consist of film shorts, clips from feature films, newsreels, "Soundies," and television commercials, and were collected by Cripps for their portrayals of African Americans, performance by African Americans, or production by African Americans from the turn of the century into the late 1960s 1970s. He also collected filmic materials reflecting other racial and ethnic stereotypes, as seen in the Ethnic Films reel. There are viewing copies for all films.
The Still Photographs Series consists of hundreds of publicity stills and other images taken from U.S. and British feature films featuring African American actors from the silent film era through the 1970s. Many entries, which have been retained from the original envelope labels, carry titles from individual films, but other prints were arranged by Cripps into topical categories such as "Black Athletes," "Jungle Pix," "Silent Films," and "Exotic Primitives."
Cripps's professional papers, a very large group, are closed to access pending processing. They are currently loosely arranged into these series: Correspondence, Dissertation and Research, Morgan State University, Other Papers and AV Materials, Subject Files, and Writings. Beyond the topics discussed above, the materials also document grant proposals written by Cripps; his early dissertation work; coursework in a variety of settings; and his many publication projects.
Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
The films and movie stills are open to use. However, the remaining series are closed to access pending processing.
In addition, original audiovisual materials are closed to patron use. Use copies are available in the collection.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Correspondence is foldered by organization and topic and arranged alphabetically by folder title. Series includes correspondence regarding project ideas with major contemporary African American Studies figures such as Henry Louis Gates, Jr., John Blassingame, and Leon Litwack. "Fan Mail" folder contains international responses spanning from Sweden to Ghana to Nigeria. Original titles have been retained. Larger record storage containers are designated "RS."
Series is closed pending processing.
Records document Cripps's research leading to his dissertation on African Americans in film and popular culture. There are also related materials in Box P12. Original titles have been retained. Larger record storage containers are designated "RS."
Series is closed pending processing.
Original films collected by Thomas Cripps; primarily black and white, silent, and 16mm. Early films, some from as early as 1898 and 1900, feature the cityscapes of New York, Baltimore, and San Francisco, and other urban centers. Some films portray African Americans in several wars, including the Spanish-American War, World War II, and the Korean War. Others document civil rights era events. Recorded political events include a Harry Truman speech concerning the Civil Rights Commission report, and a Lyndon Johnson speech on civil rights. Among the many notable actors and performers in the films are Duke Ellington, Jesse Owen, Louis Armstrong, Lincoln Perry ("Stepin Fetchit"), and Bert Williams. The entry for "Paisan - the Black Story" refers to Rossellini's film on the relations between Italians and American GIs during World War II, "Paisan," in which one episode centers on an African American GI and a Neapolitan street urchin. Arranged as received.
[Original recordings are closed to use. Viewing copies are available for all films.]
North Star on Morgan State University News; man walking down street
March on Washington crowds, 1963
Black cavalry marching home from Spanish-American War
Madison Square, NYC, 1898
Truman on Civil Rights Commission report and News in Brief (negative)
Los Angeles Riots, 1968; Selma March
Footage of various historically black colleges (Morgan Footage)
Baltimore fire of l904; vote against Daylight Savings; volunteer information for WWII
World War II footage with African American soldiers; Newsreel footage "Mrs. Roosevelt helps dedicate Negro Boys Club"; "Robot Cotton Picker"
Street scenes 1900s; black soldiers disembarking, Spanish-American War; Eisenhower/Kennedy/LBJ plead for race equality
Duke Ellington and his Symphony in Black
Uncle Tom's Cabin (Edison)
St. Louis Blues
Jesse Owens Footage; Signal Corps; Unidentified speaker with several takes; Living conditions Great Depression, l930s
Students at Booker T. Washington Institute; WWII: Tuskegee Airmen
Various Scenes from New York City: Military Procession; Arrival of Immigrants, Ellis Island; Panorama from the Times Building, NYC: Sorting Refuse at an incinerating plant, NYC; Union Iron Works; Harlem Street Scenes; Elevated Railroad, NYC; Bargain day, 14th St.; Dick Croker leaving Tammany Hall; Cardinal Gibbons.
Ethnic Films:The Black Hand (Biograph); Romance of a Jewess (Or A Jewish Tragedy) (Biograph); The Heathen Chinese and the Sunday School Teacher (Biograph); Cohen's Fire Sale; Alfonse and Gaston Helping an Irishman
His Trust and His Trust Fulfilled
"Soundies": Ellington, Fats Waller, Wingy Manone, Jimmy Rushing, Count Basie, Satchmo
Sunday on the River
Misc. Seventies TV commercials
Misc. Seventies TV commercials
The Negro Soldier
Black Shadows on a Silver Screen
A Natural Born Gambler
Spying the Spy (l9l9) - silent
Thurgood Marshall joining the Supreme Court (newsreel); Selma - Montgomery March (Universal Newsreel); LBJ speech
Sidney Poiter accepts Oscar; Negro Youth Administration footage, l930s
LBJ greets troops; News in Brief Social Security; Black troops, Korean War
City Scenes: New York City scenes, circa l900; Star theater; NY skyscrapers from North River; 1st Avenue - Seattle, Washington; San Francisco from balloon; Battery Park, NY; Cotton spinning
Paisan - The Black Story
Watermelon Contest, Gator and the Picka-ninnie, A Bucket of Cream Ale, silent
Open the Door, Richard, with Lincoln Perry ("Stepin Fetchit")
Panorama, Union Square, San Francisco; Cardinal Gibbons; Cake Walk; Cavalry Troops; NY Street Scene; Gesture Fight on Hester Street (Part 1)
Panorama, Union Square, San Francisco; Cardinal Gibbons; Cake Walk; Cavalry Troops; NY Street Scene; Gesture Fight on Hester Street (Part 2)
The Fights of Nations, silent
Rhapsody in Black and Blue with Louis Armstrong (Satchmo), directed by Aubrey Scotto
Buck Dance, Broken Doll, silent
(unfinished) Spying the Spy,
An extensive set of files related to television programming, publicity, and teaching material generated from Cripps's position at Morgan State. Series includes lesson plans, notes, and list of accompanying images for a variety of class topics based on African American history such as "Blacks and the Presidency," "From Colonization to Nationalism," "Latin American Comparisons," and "Jazz Tradition." Some files cover a short film script Cripps wrote for Anacostia Museum concerning 1920s Black Renaissance and film, Maryland Committee for the Humanities materials, and course exams and notes for "The Social History of American Broadcasting" course at MSU. All relevant information is listed in folders marked "Group W, referring to the television news company, Westinghouse, which refers to their series of television networks in major cities as "Group W."
A large component of the series relates to a television program Cripps hosted in the 1970s, The 'Negro' In United States History, an educational series for the general public created through the collaboration of several instructors. It was broadcast Saturday and Sunday mornings. The in-class lecture ran every Saturday from 11:00am-1:00pm for those registered. Cripps offered the syllabus for free upon request for interested, unregistered viewers. The audience who wrote in came from many segments of the community, included the incarcerated. The primary text for this book was John Hope Franklin's From Slavery to Freedom.
Included in the "Fan Mail" folder is a 1975 letter from Roosevelt Drummond. Drummond was convicted on charges stemming from robbery and drug dealing during his youth. In prison, he became a member of the Black Guerilla Family (BGF), a national gang founded by Soledad Brother George Jackson. During his time in prison, Drummond made a number of escape attempts, which he references in the letter to Cripps. In 2009, he was indicted alongside other BGF members and prison officials for drug conspiracy. Drummond made a final escape just prior to the indictment and has been a federal fugitive since.
Original titles have been retained. Boxes designated "RS" are larger record storage cartons.
Series is closed pending processing.
These last two boxes included this description by Cripps: "This box constitutes a Morgan movement toward affecting TV racially at its source - the studio and the booth. Professors Dates (now Dean of the [?] School at Howard) and Cripps (now Distinguished Professor Emeritus) together and separately developed, hosted, wrote, consulted on almost 2 decades of TV in concert with Post-Newsweek, WJZ, WBAL, many other projects or consultants - this at a crucial moment from 1963-1976."
Contains an assortment of uncategorized working files, chiefly concerning grant proposals, teaching positions, Cripps's own coursework as a student, and a series of audiovisual recordings. Larger record storage cartons are designated "RS."
[Original audiovisual materials are closed to use. Use of these materials may require production of listening or viewing copies. Please contact a reference archivist before coming to use this collection.]
Cripps's schoolwork, and courses taught by Cripps at MSU.
Foldered by proposal and labeled with the name of the funding source and the project for which funding was solicited.
Consists of hundreds of black and white publicity stills and other images collected by Thomas Cripps over many years, taken from films featuring African American actors or African American producers and directors from the silent film era through the 1970s. Almost all derive from American-made films, but there is also a large group of stills originating from British films. One significant group contains images from pioneer African American director Oscar Micheaux's movies. Titles refer either to individual films, or to broad subjects.
To improve housing, contents of original envelopes have been refoldered, but Cripps's content lists which provide fuller descriptive access to individual images have been photocopied and placed in each folder with its corresponding group of stills. A few folders include other film publicity or correspondence. Arranged as received, in alphabetical order by film title or topical heading. Original folder titles retained. Dates added by staff are in brackets.
Consists of folders arranged in alphabetical order according to topic. Original titles have been retained.
Includes photo reproductions of 19th century images of Austin, and images of movie street sets.
[Oversize film "While Thousands Cheer" poster with Kenny Washington removed to Ovsz. Box 136.]
Includes two negative slides and letter to Thomas Cripps from Sharon Reinkens.
Various files found with the still photographs, related to Cripps's research. Also includes a few unidentified negatives. Original titles have been retained.
Assembled and maintained by Cripps in the course of his research, these files typically contain clippings, articles, images, some correspondence, original manuscripts collected by Cripps, and drafts of writings by Cripps. Selected subgroupings are described more fully below. The boxes marked "TV" found throughout are foldered by sub-topic and arranged in alphabetical order; major topics Cripps researched include black broadcasters, television dramas, and individual television shows (such as Roots, Julia, etc.) Original titles have been retained. Arranged in original order as received and minimally processed. Larger record storage cartons are designated as "RS."
Series is closed pending processing.
Clippings and photocopies of articles, newspapers, and notes from Cripps's research on the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Subjects covered include the Nazi Party, anti-semitism, racism, Jesse Owens, modernism, German politics and culture, art and architecture, and Olympic themes and history. The culmination of this research appears to be Cripps's unpublished article, The Arts Competition of the Berlin Olympics of 1936. These drafts are available in the Drafts and Proofs series.
Predominately undated. Contents consist chiefly of a considerable amount of research on the NAACP split in Los Angeles; a Negro Soldiers Training Manual, post-WWII, with racist content; and large amounts of clippings used in Cripps's research. There little material on films. More than a folder worth of articles on the 1979 television series Holocaust. opics are organized alphabetically.
Includes a folder of fan letters to James Lowe (Title character in Uncle Tom's Cabin) from across the globe. Also, a folder of materials sent from Jimmie Smith (Lowe's manager and publicist) pulled from his personal scrapbook. Scrapbook pages include press photographs, newspaper articles, Lowe and Smith's 1928 tax forms, and other memorabilia.
Contains drafts, proofs, and supporting files for Cripps's many writing projects and publications, centering around his research on representations of African American in American popular culture, especially his two-volume work on film, Slow Fade to Black and Making Movies Black, 1993. Some materials relate to The Green Pastures, a guide to the black folk film classic (1936) of the same name, edited by Cripps and Tino Balio and published in 1979. Other writings represented in the files include the essay The Negro Soldier (1944): Film Propaganda in Black and White written with David Culbert; and the book Hollywood's High Noon, regarding the formation of Hollywood in the years before television. Original folder titles have been retained; arranged in original order as received. Larger record storage cartons are marked as "RS."
Enter Restrictions Note
Thomas Cripps is a historian specializing in the portrayal of African Americans in film, and is a retired faculty member of Morgan State University. He has written five books, including Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900-1942 (Oxford, 1997), as well as many articles and television scripts. In addition, Cripps has contributed to the production of several television series such as American Cinema, Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies and the American Dream, and Richard Wright: Black Boy. Cripps was awarded gold medals in international film festivals for his 1976 script, Black Shadows on a Silver Screen.
- Cripps, Thomas
- Micheaux, Oscar, 1884-1951
- African American artists
- African American soldiers
- African Americans -- Civil rights
- African Americans in advertising
- African Americans in mass media
- African Americans in motion pictures
- African Americans in the motion picture industry
- African Americans -- Pictorial works
- Civil rights movements -- United States
- Documentary films -- United States
- Jews in motion pictures
- Minorities in motion pictures
- Motion pictures -- United States -- History
- Nazi propaganda -- Germany
- Race in motion pictures
- Race relations -- United States -- 20th century
- Silent films -- United States
- Stereotypes (social psychology) in mass media
- Germany -- Politics and government -- 1933-1945
- United States -- Ethnic relations -- 20th century
- United States -- Social conditions -- 20th century
- Motion pictures
- Silent films
- Black and white photographs
- Video cassettes
- Archive of Documentary Arts (Duke University)
[Identification of item], Thomas Cripps Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The Thomas Cripps papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 2003 and 2011.
Processed by Karen Glynn, Meghan Lyon, Carrie Mills, Katy Terrell, Winnie Tichner, and Matthew Warren, February 2009 and November 2011
Encoded by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Katy Terrell, and Matthew Warren, February 2009 and November 2011
Updated by Neale Stokes, April 2010
Accessions 2003-0098, 2011-0125, and 2011-0138 are described in this finding aid.
The films and movie stills have been fully processed and are open for use; the manuscripts portion is closed pending updated housing and description.
Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and local Style Guide.
This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.