Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar Righting a Past Wrong? Academy to Present Spike Lee with Honorary Oscar Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington Viola Davis Says She Will Star in a Film Adaptation of 'Fences' Directed by Denzel Washington Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Vin Diesel Says He's Returning for a 'xXx' Threequel - Filming to Start in December Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades Updates on Steve McQueen's "Epic" Series Centered on a Black Community in London, Over 3 Decades This Is What Angela Bassett and Naomi Campbell Will Look Like in 'American Horror Story: Hotel' This Is What Angela Bassett and Naomi Campbell Will Look Like in 'American Horror Story: Hotel' Quentin Tarantino Says 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Timely & Will Tackle White Supremacy Quentin Tarantino Says 'The Hateful Eight' Will Be Timely & Will Tackle White Supremacy But What About Black Superheroines, You Ask? Watch Episode 1 of CW Seed's Vixen Series But What About Black Superheroines, You Ask? Watch Episode 1 of CW Seed's Vixen Series Watch: First Look at Season Three of 'Hit the Floor' Watch: First Look at Season Three of 'Hit the Floor' Brad Pitt's Plan B + 'Ex Machina' Distribution Company Team up for Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight' Brad Pitt's Plan B + 'Ex Machina' Distribution Company Team up for Barry Jenkins' 'Moonlight' Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji Join Issa Rae in 'Insecure' for HBO Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji Join Issa Rae in 'Insecure' for HBO Tupac Shakur Facebook Page Posts Cryptic Message on Upcoming "Special Announcement." Biopic News? Tupac Shakur Facebook Page Posts Cryptic Message on Upcoming "Special Announcement." Biopic News? Weekend B.O. Aug 21-23 (F. Gary Gray Becomes a Prominent Member of the $100 Million Black Directors Club) Weekend B.O. Aug 21-23 (F. Gary Gray Becomes a Prominent Member of the $100 Million Black Directors Club) Dr. Dre Issues Public Statement Apologizing for "The Women I’ve Hurt" Dr. Dre Issues Public Statement Apologizing for "The Women I’ve Hurt" Timely Brit Documentary 'The Hard Stop' Explores Life & Death of Mark Duggan + Riots That Followed (Trailer) Timely Brit Documentary 'The Hard Stop' Explores Life & Death of Mark Duggan + Riots That Followed (Trailer) Say Hello to Marvel's Newest Superhero - Moon Girl Say Hello to Marvel's Newest Superhero - Moon Girl Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Why Was Janet Hubert (Aunt Viv) Really Replaced on 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'? Buzzfeed Investigates Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... AFM News: Danny Glover, Derek Luke Will Play Prison Inmates In 3D Drama 'Long Day Journey' AFM News: Danny Glover, Derek Luke Will Play Prison Inmates In 3D Drama 'Long Day Journey'

Living Black History on Film: The Remarkable Movies of Solomon Sir Jones

Shadow and Act By Sergio | Shadow and Act July 4, 2014 at 4:07PM

The home movies of Solomon Sir Jones bring the not-so-far past of black history, society and culture back to vibrant life
12
Solomon Sir Jones

This being the 4th of July holiday weekend, where we celebrate our country’s history, what better time to reflect on African American history, which is, of course, the very definition of American history.

In this specific case, African American history, life and culture as seen through the all embracing and compassing eyes of Solomon Sir Jones.

The Reverend Jones (1869-1936) was a Baptist minister, who established, or was the pastor of some 15 churches in his lifetime, a businessman and an avid home movie filmmaker. The son of ex-slaves, he was born in Tennessee and grew up in the South, before moving to Oklahoma, where he lived for most of his life. And yet, Jones was quite remarkable for any person, black or white, in this country, during this period of the early 20th century - an extraordinary well traveled man.

Not only did he travel throughout the South, but also the Midwest, the East Coast, Colorado and even overseas, to France, England, Palestine, Switzerland, Italy, Northern Africa, and Germany. And wherever he went, during the years 1924-28,  he took his trusty home movie camera.

And at a time when making home movies was a rare and unaffordable pastime for the overwhelming majority of Americans, the fact that a black person was traveling around the U.S., shooting films that captured black life and society, as well as life and culture in other countries, made the pastor from Oklahoma a true pioneer, not only as a filmmaker, but also as a sociologist and an ethnographer.

Though, no doubt, some will look at his films as just simple home movies, they are, in fact, something else altogether. Jones’ films are, in effect, similar to the groundbreaking early films of the early 20th century French filmmaking pioneers, the Lumiere brothers and their crew of cameramen, who, with their early movie camera invention, shot endless street scenes, capturing detailed views of life and society at large in France and in other countries.

But there is even deeper dimension to Jones' films, in that they are the most extensive film records we have of Southern and urban black life and culture at the time of rapid social and cultural change for African-Americans during the 1920’s, the very beginning of the Great Migration, which transformed not only black people as a whole, but America itself.

They capture a genuine sense of pride and community, from strong and determined people who faced obstacles they encountered with an absolute assuredness of identity.

And, of course, keep in mind that Jones captured all this during a time of extreme segregation, poverty and racism.

Not only are they endlessly fascinating, but they are incredibly poignant and uplifting, and the most realistic and honest visual entry into a time and place time long ago, that is rapidly fading from memory.

Some years ago, the Jones films, nearly 6 hours worth of footage, were donated to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, but, just recently, they have been posted online for anyone to watch (HERE).

Below are two films from the collection - one of teachers leading their students in exercises and at recess, filmed by Jones in Tennessee; and the other a collection of scenes from trips to Egypt and Switzerland.

Take to time to watch them all. They are a window to a not-so-far away past of ourselves, that is sadly becoming dimmer every single day.

This article is related to: Solomon Sir Jones, Flashback


Shadow & ActNewsletter