Gayle Anderson continued her series of Black History Month reports.
Today she was live at the Hollywood Heritage Museum, which in association with the Norman Studios, presents an “Evening @ the Barn” program on the 1916 African American-run film studio in Jacksonville, Florida, the “Winter Film Capital of the World.” The Feb. 8, 2023, 7:30 p.m. program consists of a lecture by historian Barbara C. Wingo, followed by a screening of the Norman Studios 1926 feature, The Flying Ace.
Richard E. Norman, a colleague of Oscar Micheaux, was among the first to produce “race films,” starring black actors in positive, non-stereotypical roles, at his Norman Studios. The Jacksonville, former studio site includes the Production and Film Processing Building (where the Norman family lived upstairs), Generator Shed, Wardrobe Cottage, Prop Storage Garage and Set Building. Norman Studios represents the only remaining race films studio in the United States.
The National Historic Landmark Norman Studios’ five-building complex represents the only remaining silent film studios complex surviving from Jacksonville’s heyday as the “Winter Film Capital of the World” from approximately 1907 through 1917. During that era, 30 studios operated in Jacksonville, making over 300 motion pictures. In addition, Norman Studios is a rare example of a complete silent film complex, representing the early history of the seminal American art and industry of motion pictures.
Richard Norman purchased the complex in the 1920s to continue his production of “race films,” which were an antidote and reaction to the racist portrayals of African Americans in most films of the era. “Race films” were motion pictures that were made for African-American theaters and that featured African-American actors. Norman made race films that presented African Americans in positive ways that challenged the then-current stereotypes found in the overwhelming majority of the films of that era. This is all the more remarkable since Norman, a white man from Florida, and the all-black cast members made these motion pictures in Jacksonville during a period that arguably represented the height of “ Jim Crow” in the South.
The special guest speaker, historian Barbara C. Wingo, will share the history of this unique landmark in photographs and other materials and will speak about the progress toward making the studios complex into a museum and education center. The Flying Ace will follow this presentation.
As was the case with all of Norman’s films, The Flying Ace was made with aspirational characters. Recently named to the Library of Congress National Film Registry and reflecting the interest in aviation of the 1920s, The Flying Ace is a classic mystery and adventure film about a World War I flying ace returning to his position as a railroad detective.
Barbara C. Wingo is a historian and lawyer who is currently the Vice President and Curator of the NSSFM. She has been on the board of the organization since 2018 and has been involved in historic preservation and history projects for many years. She is a Courtesy Professor of History at the University of Florida.
Black History Month: Do You Know About?…
Evening@The Barn: Norman Studios
Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, at 7:30 p.m.
Hollywood Heritage Museum
2100 North Highland Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90068
For ticket information click here.
If you have questions, please feel free to contact Gayle Anderson at 1-323-460-5732 or email at Gayle.Anderson@KTLA.com.
This segment aired on the KTLA 5 Morning News on Feb. 8, 2023.