Event—Public Programming

Film, Race, and Archival Absences

Film scholar Allyson Nadia Field discusses how race shaped early American cinema.


Tune in for this live discussion on the Newberry's Facebook page or YouTube channel. You may also register for free in advance for access to the live stream via Eventbrite.

Three years ago, a 20-second film from 1898 went viral. Presumed lost for more than a century, William Selig’s Something Good — Negro Kiss was rediscovered by the film archivist at the University of Southern California. The world finally got to see the earliest cinematic representation of love between African Americans: a Back couple (played by Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown) joyfully kissing.

In this live conversation, Newberry fellow and film scholar Allyson Nadia Field (who identified and historicized Something Good — Negro Kiss) will tell us about the afterlife of the 1898 film before panning back across time to explore how race shaped American cinema in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Allyson will also discuss the challenges of studying the dawn of American filmmaking—a complicated endeavor considering 90% of the films made before 1910 do not survive today. As a result, she’s developed research tactics to fill in the archival “absences” of film history.

Allyson will be interviewed by Newberry Director of Fellowships and Academic Programs Keelin Burke.

This live discussion is part of the library's NewbTube series: brisk but brainy conversations with Newberry staff and research fellows.