The Black Kino Fist: Black life as depicted in film history

Body and Soul (1924)

Body and Soul is a 1925 race film produced, written, directed, and distributed by Oscar Micheaux and starring Paul Robeson in his motion picture debut. 

"In the silent era, black actors were hardly allowed on screen, even as maids or oafish comic relief. Hollywood would have loved a handsome, strapping presence like Paul Robeson, if only the industry hadn’t been blinded by racism. So the Rutgers football star and Columbia-educated lawyer made his film debut under the aegis of Oscar Micheaux, a go-it-alone entrepreneur who made his socially potent, artistically amateurish pictures on the super-cheap. In Body and Soul, Robeson plays two characters: the saintly Sylvester Jenkins and his venal brother, the “Reverend” Isaiah, an ex-con who wows the church ladies with his oratory, then sullies their virgin daughters and makes off with the victims’ life savings — in a Bible. It’s Isaiah who gets the screen time, which allows Robeson to radiate his unique movie appeal." 

- Richard Corliss for Time Magazine

Status: In Public Domain, Available for streaming and download on

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