Guide to the Thomas Cripps Film Collection, 1898-1976 and undated
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 Thomas Cripps Film Collection dates from approximately 1898 to 1976, and is arranged into two divisions: films, and official studio publicity photographic stills of African American actors and productions. The thirty-seven reels of film, which have been transferred to VHS viewing copies, are mainly film shorts, clips from feature films, newsreels, "Soundies," and television commercials, and were collected by Thomas 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 and 1970s. He also collected materials reflecting other racial and ethnic stereotypes. The photographic prints, of which there are several hundred, consist of publicity stills and other images taken from U.S. and British feature films with African American actors from the silent film era through the 1970s. One significant group contains stills from the movies of pioneer African American director Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951).
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
- Cripps, Thomas
- Thomas Cripps Film Collection, 1898-1976 and undated
- Language of Material
- 5.5 Linear Feet, About 975 Items
- For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
The Thomas Cripps Film Collection dates from approximately 1898 to 1976, and is arranged into two divisions: films, and photographic stills from films.
The thirty-seven films, which have been transferred to VHS viewing copies, are film shorts, clips from feature films, newsreels, "Soundies," and television commercials, and were collected by Thomas 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 materials reflecting other racial and ethnic stereotypes. The films can be used to study a variety of themes and subjects: African American artists; political and social events; educational institutions for African Americans; the Depression; television culture and advertising; and racial or ethnic stereotypes (chiefly African American, but also Jewish, Irish, and Asian). Many of the early films feature cityscapes of New York, Baltimore, and San Francisco, and other urban scenes, some from as early as 1898 and 1900. Some portray African Americans in several wars, including the Spanish-American War, World War II, and the Korean War. Other films 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.
Entries for original film reels include the approximate length of the film and other information when possible; titles are retained as found on Cripps' original labels or notes. Viewing copies for these films are available on VHS. Note: Viewing copy titles provide a more accurate account of content and running time.
The photographic prints, of which there are several hundred, consist 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." One significant group contains images from the movies of pioneer African American director Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951). Arranged as received, in alphabetical order by film title or topical heading.
Acquired as part of the Duke University Archive of Documentary Arts.
Collection is open for research.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
In addition, original audiovisual materials are closed to patron use. Use copies are available in the 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.
Original films donated by collector Thomas Cripps. Films are primarily primarily black and white, silent, and 16mm. In some cases, rolls of film were found in one canister. 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,"
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' 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 were retained. Dates added by archivist are in brackets.
Includes two negative slides and letter to Thomas Cripps from Sharon Reinkens.
[Oversize film "While Thousands Cheer" poster with Kenny Washington removed to Ovsz. Box 136.]
Includes promotional brochure and negative images of brochure.
Appears to be one still per film. Many but not all are captioned on the back.
Thomas Cripps is a retired professor of Morgan State University, an historian specializing in the portrayal of African Americans in film, and a published author. Cripps 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, he 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. In this collection of films and still photographs, Thomas Cripps documents African Americans and their cultural respresentations in the 20th century, and the developing cinematic industry in the U.S. and abroad.
- Cripps, Thomas.
- 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.
- Baltimore (Md.)--Pictorial works.
- Civil rights movements--United States.
- Documentary films--United States.
- Micheaux, Oscar, 1884-1951.
- Minorities in motion pictures.
- Motion picture journalism--United States.
- Motion pictures--United States--History.
- Newsreels--United States.
- New York (N.Y.)--Pictorial works.
- United States--Social conditions -- 20th century.
- Race in motion pictures.
- Race relations--United States--20th century.
- San Francisco Bay Area (Calif.)--Pictorial works.
- Silent films--United States.
- Motion pictures.
- Silent films.
- Black and white photographs.
- VHS (TM).
[Identification of item], Thomas Cripps Film Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
The Thomas Cripps Film Collection was received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 2003.
Processed by Karen Glynn, Katy Terrell, February 2009
Encoded by Paula Jeannet Mangiafico, Katy Terrell, February 2009
Updated by Neale Stokes, April 2010
Accession 2003-0098 is described in this finding aid.
Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and local Style Guide.
This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.