Shadow and Act has a special Valentine’s Day weekend present for our readers:
We’ve put together a video documenting 123 years of #BlackLove. Set to the score of Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk by Nicholas Brittell, it starts with 1898’s Something Good-Negro Kiss (which was recently restored for viewing by USC) to 2018’s Beale.
In December 2018, Twitter user Kyle (@kyalbr) saw the release of Something Good-Negro Kiss as an opportunity to mesh the newly found piece of history with another artifact of Black love, the recently released If Beale Street Could Talk. Using the film’s score, he gave the short film a brand new life, heightening the already happy and carefree tone of the film. We extended that theme through over a century of Black love on-screen with our video, Shadow and Act Presents: 122 Years of #BlackLove.
Stormy Weather (1943)
Poetic Justice (1993)
Jason’s Lyric (1994)
Love Jones (1997)
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
Black Panther (2018)
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
1898’s Something Good-Negro Kiss, starring dance partners and vaudeville actors Gertie Brown and Saint Suttle, was recently discovered by a team of experts from the University of Chicago and the University of Southern California. The 29-second film showcases the Black couple sharing a sweet kiss, recorded for posterity.
The short film is, according to UChicago, based on the 1896 film by Thomas Edison, The Kiss starring May Irwin, herself a minstrel performer, and John Rice. As the title suggests, the film features the first on-screen kiss. Something Good-Negro Kiss, therefore, is thought to be the earliest on-screen kiss featuring Black actors. The film has been added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry along with 24 other films, including Jurassic Park and Brokeback Mountain.
The University of Chicago’s African-American cinema expert Allyson Nadia Field was part of the team who helped identify the film, and she said both The Kiss and Something Good-Negro Kiss showcase the varying attitudes towards Blackness in cinema.
“This artifact helps us think more critically about the relationship between race and performance in early cinema,” she said to UChicago. “It’s not a corrective to all the racialized misrepresentation, but it shows us that that’s not the only thing that was going on.”