ABOUT THE SEPARATE CINEMA ARCHIVE
Beginning with the gift of a single poster in 1972, The Separate Cinema Archive has grown over the course of three decades to become a respected and comprehensive collection of more than 25,000 rare film posters, lobby cards and photographs originating from thirty countries. This astounding legacy, collected and maintained by Archive founder John Kisch, chronicles the historic and turbulent journey of the Black film industry, Black actors and directors, and indeed the arc of the struggle for African-American equality.
The Separate Cinema Archive's mission is to share this cinematic legacy with the world, to better educate, enlighten and forge an understanding of the American and global Black experience. As The Archive continues to grow, it reaches out even wider to share the political, social, cultural and even racist history lessons inherent in this world-class collection by exhibiting in museums and galleries across the world.
Central to the mission of The Separate Cinema Archive is to shed light on a little-known existence of a black-owned and operated film industry in the early 20th century, in which black directors reigned, and where black characters were the leads, unrestricted to demeaning, stereotyped roles common to Hollywood productions. The Archive features numerous one-of-a-kind posters that are, in many cases, the last extant evidence of films now lost to time.
"Unlike the better-funded advertising for mainstream Hollywood movies," John Kisch states, "the posters from this independent Black Hollywood were printed for miniscule budgets. However, the passion and conviction of these films is startling evident from the posters that survive. Originally created as cheap and disposable means of advertising, the Black Hollywood movie poster is finally acknowledged as an important visual document from a brief time when this separate cinema flourished."
In 1990, Kisch collaborated with film historian Dr. Edward Mapp to create a companion book for the Archive. A Separate Cinema: 50 Years of Black Cast Posters (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) was a landmark in publishing. Covering the years 1916 - 1965, the book reproduces more than 200 color posters, many not seen for generations. Contributing to this exhaustive survey of the Black presence in American cinema were film historian and author Donald Bogle and award-winning filmmaker and human rights activist Spike Lee.
Separate Cinema is, first and foremost, an educational institution committed to sharing its resources with the world. The Archives remain accessible to both academia and the public, from scholars to schoolchildren. Since 1987, Separate Cinema has provided film poster exhibits for museums, film festivals, government offices, corporate galleries, libraries and prestigious art institutions worldwide. The Archive maintains traveling exhibits throughout the year, loaning exhibits that are either comprehensive historical overviews or those defined by theme. Exhibits can be customized to the individual needs of curators. Exhibits are complemented by film screenings, lectures, symposia as well as book, catalogue and poster sales -- all designed for optimal educational and fiscal benefit for the hosting institutions.
The Separate Cinema Archive continues its mission into the 21st century, supported by a prestigious cadre of this country's foremost authorities on Black film, including Dr. Edward Mapp Donald Bogle, Spike Lee and Ruby Dee. Their influence and inspiration ensure that the Archive remains a valuable tool not merely for entertainment and education, but as a spur to greater understanding between all races.
His entree into the world of Black cast poster collection began when a friend gave him "Caldonia," a vintage movie poster that featured musician Louis Jordan. To John Kisch, both an avid jazz and blues fan and a promising artist, the poster appealed to his musical and aesthetic senses. Little did he know that this momentous gift would set the course for his destiny, making him one of the nation's leading archivist; the quintessential word on rare and vintage poster collection and the founder and of The Separate Cinema Archive.
A photographer by profession, John Kisch began his career in 1976 as a photographer's assistant to some of the most prolific names in media and advertising including Annie Leibowitz, Rolling Stone, Maureen Lambray, Esquire, Bob Richardson of Vogue, and Denis Piel, Vogue and New York Times.
From 1976 - 1987, when time from his work allowed, he traveled extensively throughout the United States and Europe on tour with some of the world's most renowned musicians, shooting their photographs, capturing their performances and chronicling their times. Among the artists who found the eye of his camera lens were Lionel Hampton, Count Basie, Chick Corea, Dizzie Gillespie, David Bowie, Hall & Oates, Los Lobos, The Stranglers, Hot Tuna, Tears for Fears, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and Robert Gordon.
While on the road his shooting schedule afforded him time to explore antique shops, comic book stores and auction houses where he acquired countless and authentic film memorabilia.
By 1980 back in New York, John had opened his own photography studio, shooting commercial photos of the country's most celebrated models, musicians, celebrities and actors including Christie Brinkley, Janice Dickinson, Esme, Laurence Fishburne, Patty Hansen, Pee Wee Herman, Iman, Beverly Johnson and Kelly LeBrock. As his career took off, so did his collection of Black cast posters. By the mid 80's he had acquired several thousand, most of which were framed and hung on the walls of his studio.
Many of his celebrity clients were fascinated by his collection. David Alan Grier, Quincy Jones, Eriq La Salle, Spike Lee, Ahmad Rashad, Russell Simmons, Will Smith, Howard Stern and Quentin Tarantino, are among the first buyers and collectors of Separate Cinema posters.
Part aesthetic, part nostalgic the posters had meaning to young and old alike, and possessed the power to transcend ethnicity. Mostly however, Kisch felt that they captured the spirit and energy of an earlier time. They reminded people of the pioneers of the past, those courageous and daring African American filmmakers, entertainers and artists whose dreams and struggles paved the way for future generations.
Recognizing the new wave in Black cinema ushered in by younger talented African American directors, producers and writers, and appreciating the importance of his collection, in 1987 Kisch began providing traveling movie poster exhibits for museums, film festivals, government offices, corporate galleries, libraries and prestigious art institutions worldwide. Among the venues that have presented Separate Cinema exhibitions include The Apollo Theater, The British Film Institute, Forbes Magazine Gallery, National Civil Rights Museum, Pinacoteca Provinciale Di Bari, in Bari, Italy; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and The Smithsonian.
In 1990, the New York City publishing house of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, approached John to write a book about his, historic collection of innovative and provocative posters, which by then encompassed over a dozen fascinating and unique themes. Work began with his two esteemed co-authors Donald Bogle and Edward Mapp and produced from this triple threat collaboration was Separate Cinema: 50 Years of Black Cast Posters, the first book to present a history of black-cast films through their posters. Covering the years 1916 - 1965, the book includes more than 200 color posters and pays tribute to the Black presence in American filmmaking.
Today, The Separate Cinema Archive is an institution. It is the most extensive private holdings of African American film memorabilia in the world, containing over 25,000 authentic movie posters and photographs that recount the historic journey of the Black film industry.
A native of New York City, Kisch is a 1976 graduate of New York's Bard College where he was the first to receive a B.A. in Photography, a discipline that he helped to establish at that time under the newly appointed President, Leon Botstein.
Donald Bogle, whose book Dorothy Dandridge: A Biography was published to glowing reviews, is one of the foremost authorities on African Americans in American popular culture and the author of four prize-winning books. This past year a paperback edition of his most recent book Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television, was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, which also published the original hardback edition. The first comprehensive history of African Americans on the primetime network series, Primetime Blues has been enthusiastically reviewed. In the New York Times, critic Julie Salamon wrote that Bogle's "thoroughness and insightful analyses are admirable. This is a valuable chronicle." This year Mr. Bogle also served as the creative consultant as well as a commentator for the cable network TV Land's ambitious four-part documentary series examining African American images on television from the late 1940s to present.
Mr. Bogle is also the author of Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Black in American Films, which was the winner of the Theatre Library Association Award as Best Film Book of the Year and is now considered a classic study of African American movie images. "Bogle is passionate and good-humored," wrote Gene Siskel. His book is valuable as a film reference work and social document." A revised expanded fourth edition has just been published. Another of Bogle's books is Brown Sugar: Eighty Years of America's Black Female Superstars, which he adapted into an acclaimed four-hour, four-part documentary series for PBS (the series was named one of the best documentaries of the year by the Association or American Women in Television and Radio). In addition, he is well known for his distinguished work, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Illustrated Encyclopedia.
Mr. Bogle appeared as a commentator in Spike Lee's documentary on athlete and film actor Jim Brown. Earlier at Spike Lee's request, Bogle wrote the foreward, which examines the jazz hero in American motion pictures, for Lee's Mo' Better Blues book. He also wrote the introductory essay on early African American filmmakers for A Separate Cinema: Fifty Years of Black Cast Posters, for which Lee wrote the preface. "Let's all nod in appreciation to Donald Bogle for putting everything in historical perspective," Spike Lee has written, "Mr. Bogle continues to be our most noted Black cinema historian."
Among the other documentaries that have featured Mr. Bogle as a commentator are the HBO special Mo' Funny: Black Comedy in America as well as the American Movie Classic channel's Small Steps:Big Strides, which chronicled the history of African Americans in motion pictures, and, recently Showtime's It's Black Entertainment.
Bogle has been a curator on a number of important film series in New York, including a major retrospective at the American Museum of the Moving Image on the career of Sidney Poitier. For New York's Film Forum, Bogle has been curator or co-curator for a number of retrospectives, including Black Women In The Movies: Actresses, Images, Films; Blacks In The Movies: Breakthroughs, Landmarks, Milestones; the highly successful Blaxploitation, Baby!; and Dorothy Dandridge. He also served on the Film Forum's board.
Under the auspices of the United States Information Service, Mr. Bogle traveled through South Africa with a series of films focusing on African Americans. His tour took him to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban where he gave some fifteen lectures on Black American cinema at universities and theatres. The opening of the film festival in Johannesburg was attended by American Ambassador to South Africa, the Honorable James Joseph and his wife Mary Joseph, who hosted a private dinner in Mr. Bogle's honor at the American Embassy in Pretoria.
Mr. Bogles's articles have appeared in Film Comment, Spin, Ebony, Essence, Elan, Saturday Review, University Review and Freedomways. He is a frequent lecturer on films and African American performers at colleges and museums around the country and has been interviewed on numerous television programs, including Today, Good Morning America, The Charlie Rose Show, Nightline and Entertainment Tonight.
Bogle also teaches at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. He lives in Manhattan but divides his time between New York and Los Angeles.
Edward Mapp was born in New York City. He received a B.A. from the City College of New York, a M.S. degree from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in mass communications from New York University.
Mapp began his career as a teacher, later becoming faculty Dean at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). He served four years as Vice Chancellor for the City Colleges of Chicago before ultimately returning to BMCC as a professor of speech and communications.
Among his writings are: Blacks in American Films: Today and Yesterday; Directory of Blacks in the Performing Arts and A Separate Cinema: 50 Years of Black Cast Posters that he co-authored with John Kisch and Donald Bogle. His most recent book, African Americans and the Oscar: Seven Decades of Struggle and Achievement was published in October 2003.
Mapp's interest in film led to the collection of more than 1000 vintage Black cast posters spanning the decades since 1920, becoming one of the pre-eminent sources of information on Black films. In 1995 the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences acquired his poster collection for the Library.
In 1987 Dr. Mapp was honored by the Mayor of New York City with an appointment Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which he fulfilled for seven years. In 1992 he was inducted into the Black Collectors Hall of Fame.
Mapp's activities over the years have involved service on various prestigious committee and boards including: National Conference of Christians and Jews, Brooklyn Board; Advisory Committee National Project Center for Film and Humanities; United Nations Association of New York's Board of Directors and The Friends of Thirteen Inc. (PBS station Channel 13). He was elected Vice Chairman of the Friends Board in 2003.
Mapp is professor emeritus at BMCC and continues to collect posters.
A.T. Stephens has spent nearly three decades as an educator and administrator of programs with a primary focus on the public's engagement with history. A consultant in museum practice, he has worked with a variety of organizations including the multiple sites of Colonial Williamsburg; Thomas Jefferson's Monticello; Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina; and Laurel Grove, a one-room colored school in Franconia, Virginia. An occasional presenter on subjects of historical and cultural interest, he has spoken on a range of topics: the First Centuries of African American Life in the Upper South; the Urban Experience of Slaves, Indentures, and Free Negroes in Antebellum Virginia; African American Invention after Emancipation; and the Lively Arts and Heritage of the Nation's Diverse Communities.
In recent years, A.T. Stephens has overseen the installation of educational programs and visitor services for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore and monitored the progress of Collections, Exhibits, and Community Programs for the African American Museum in Philadelphia and the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis. He was director of the Black History Resource Center in Alexandria, Virginia, and manager for stewardship education and outreach for the historic sites of the Division of Historic Preservation in Fairfax County, Virginia, Stephens has also played a leadership role in producing landmark instructional programs for the public schools: An African American Journey: A Resource for Learning the History of African Americans in the United States and Maryland (2005), the Lewis Museum's multi-year series of interdisciplinary lessons created in partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education; Entering the World of the Laurel Grove School (2003), a curriculum recreating the learning conditions of the first generation of African Americans "born into freedom" in Northern Virginia during the early-20th century; and A Guide to the African American Presence at Sully (1986), developed during the course of archaeological reconstructions of period dwellings on a Federal-era plantation managed by the Fairfax County Park Authority.
Mr. Stephens has lectured in museum studies at Mary Washington and Emory and Henry Colleges, as well as historic preservation at Northern Virginia Community College. He led the Practicum in Exhibit Development and Interpretation as an adjunct faculty member of the Graduate Program in Museum Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. A long-time advocate for museums and free-choice learning, he has served on the boards, councils, or standing committees of American Association of Museums, Museum Education Roundtable, Institute for Learning Innovation, Virginia Association of Museums, Association of Midwest Museums, and Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, and Living Classrooms Foundation.
A 1977 graduate of Western Kentucky University in American History and English, Stephens earned a Master of Arts degree in History: American Studies and Historic Preservation from Wake Forest University in 1978. He received a Kellogg Fellowship in Museum Education at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago in 1986. A.T. Stephens makes his home in Washington, DC.
Barbara Tepa Lupack has written extensively on American literature, film, and culture. As a professor of English, she has taught at St. John's University, Wayne State College, and SUNY, where she served as Associate Dean at Empire State College. As Fulbright Senior Professor of American Literature, she also taught at the University of Wroclaw, Poland, and at the Université de Haute Savoie à Chambéry, France.
Dr. Lupack has written or edited more than twenty books, including Adapting the Arthurian Legends for Children: Essays on Arthurian Juvenilia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); Literary Adaptations in Black American Cinema: From Micheaux to Morrison (University of Rochester Press, 2002), King Arthur in America (1999/winner of the Mythopoeic Society Scholarship Award, 2001), Nineteenth Century Women at the Movies: Adapting Classic Women's Literature to Film (Popular Press, 1999); Vision/Re-Vision: Adapting Contemporary Fiction by Women to Film (Popular Press, 1996), Critical Essays on Jerzy Kosinski (Simon and Schuster/G. K. Hall, 1996); and Insanity as Redemption in Contemporary American Fiction: Inmates Running the Asylum (University Press of Florida, 1995/CHOICE "Outstanding Scholarly Book," 1996). She is also author of a children's book, King Arthur's Crown (2004); editor and translator of the book-length play, Fräulein Doktor (2005); and co-editor, since the 1980s, of the literary journal, The Round Table. A new book of hers, on illustrating the Arthurian legends, is forthcoming in 2007.
Kai Wright is a freelance journalist in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. His work explores the politics of sex and race, with a particular focus on the implications for public health. Kai contributes regularly to leading indy and community press such as Out, The Progressive and Poz magazines. He has written for publications ranging from the Village Voice to the San Francisco Chronicle since beginning his journalism career as a reporter for the Washington Blade newspaper in 1997.
Kai is the author of Soldiers of Freedom: An Illustrated History of African Americans in the Armed Forces. The book explores America's struggle with race as it has been dramatized by the need to staff a viable military. Kai's also editor of The African-American Archive: The History of the Black Experience Through Documents and has contributed to a number of anthologies.
Kai has also written and edited a series of monographs exploring the political and social dynamics of the AIDS epidemic among African Americans. Published by the Black AIDS Institute, the most recent of these was The Way Forward: The State of AIDS in Black America, 2006.
One of Kai's favorite assignments came in the fall of 1999 when, as a Pew Fellow in International Journalism, he traveled through southern Africa reporting on the AIDS epidemic as well as the region's burgeoning gay human rights movement. In July 2000, he returned to southern Africa to report from the XIII International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa. During that trip, he served as project editor for a partnership between the Black AIDS Institute and the National Newspaper Publishers Association that brought daily reports from the historic meeting to hundreds of U.S. black newspapers serving millions of readers. Kai again led the project at the 2002 world AIDS conference in Barcelona, Spain and the 2004 conference in Bangkok, Thailand. He is also working with the Institute to re-launch BlackAIDS.org, a web journal that will facilitate ongoing coverage of the epidemic in the Black Press by offering quality journalism to local papers and national magazines free of charge.
Kai holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a 1995 Woodrow Wilson Fellow in Public Policy and International Affairs, and studied Arabic at the Middlebury College Language Institute. Prior to launching a freelance business in the spring of 2000, he served as a staff reporter for the Washington Blade, an editorial assistant for Foreign Policy magazine and a desk assistant for PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He relocated to Brooklyn from Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2002, when he joined City Limits magazine as a senior editor. He is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Judith Weisenfeld (A. B., Barnard College; M. A., Princeton University; Ph. D., Princeton University) is Professor of Religion at Princeton University and teaches African-American religious history and religion in American culture.
She is the author of Hollywood Be Thy Name: African American Religion in American Film, 1929-1949 (University of California Press, 2007), African-American Women and Christian Activism: New York's Black YWCA, 1905-1945 (Harvard University Press, 1997), and co-editor (with Richard Newman) of This Far By Faith: Readings in African American Women's Religious Biography (Routledge, 1996). She is the founder of The North Star: A Journal of African-American Religious History and served as editor from 1997-2005.
Mark Cantor has been active as a researcher and preservationist in the area of music on film for the past thirty years. During that time he has assembled one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of popular music on film existing in the United States. Although the collection of over four thousand titles focuses on jazz and blues performance, it also includes such related musical forms as folk, ragtime, swing, cabaret, vaudeville, country-western, western swing, rhythm & blues and rock & roll.
For the past twenty-five years Mr. Cantor has presented a widely acclaimed series of public exhibitions of jazz and blues films entitled "Celluloid Improvisations." These screenings have appeared at such prestigious international locations as The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cinematheque Francaise, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the American Film Institute, the National Association of Recording Arts & Sciences, Festival Dei Popoli Florence, the Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo Free Jazz Festival, the Duke Ellington Society, the Pacific Film Archive, the Monterey Jazz Festival. The Experience Music Project, the Telluride Jazz Festival and the San Francisco Jazz Festival.
As a well-known authority on the subject of music on film, Mr. Cantor serves as consultant on a regular basis to filmmakers and television producers for documentaries and feature film presentations.
"Mark Cantor has one of the very best collections of jazz films in the world. He was an invaluable asset to our Jazz series whose generous advice helped us unearth some extraordinary footage. Mark is an essential resource to anyone making a film about jazz." -- Ken Burns
Composer, songwriter, musician and actor, Joseph Baldassare wrote the theme songs for TWA, Sprite, Tang and Volkswagon. After roles in both Steven Spielberg's <i>The Money Pit</i> and Martin Davidson's <i>Eddie and the Cruisers</i>, Mr. Baldassare joined the European staff of the Philips Corporation's Polygram Records division dividing his time between offices in Koln, Germany and Athens, Greece. In his role as staff producer and A&R consultant, he helped shape the musical direction of the company while personally producing sales of over ten million units. He received gold, platinum and double platinum awards for his musical productions in almost every western European country. In addition, Joseph arranged and produced the theme song for the International Torch Lighting Ceremony for the 1998 Special Olympics. His expertise at staging unique and unexpected productions, such as bringing the Prague Symphony to Athens, Greece or Bulgaria's Sofia Amadeus Orchestra to Dresden, Germany, or providing talent for Cirque du Soleil, has been embraced worldwide.
In 2000, Baldassare founded Kunduru Music, an independent record label that provides content for broadcast networks such as CBS (CSI-Miami), NBC (Love Monkey) and PBS (Bill Moyers Journal) in the United States as well as the BBC in England, Globo TV in Brazil and RTL in continental Europe. Most recently, luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman commissioned an exclusive box set of his musical works Living Theater-Trilogy. It is a tribute to global music and style that highlights the cultural traditions of musicians from over a dozen countries.
Baldassare is a Berklee alumni and an active voting member of both the Grammy Awards and the Screen Actor's Guild Awards.