Wiesenfeld, Judith. "For the Cause of Mankind: The Bible, Racial Uplift and Early Race Movies." African Americans and the Bible. Ed. Vincent L. Wimbush and Rosamond C. Rodman. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001. 728-740.
Content and Relevance of Work:
In her article "For the Cause of Mankind: The Bible, Racial Uplift and Early Race Movies" found in the book African Americans and the Bible, Judith Wiesenfeld explores both the prevalence of religious themes in early black films and the ways in which early black filmmakers attempted to respond to D.W. Griffith's negative representation of blacks in his film Birth of a Nation. Wiesenfeld first analyzes Birth of a Nation which she sees to be the catalyst for much of early black film as it denigrated blacks and promoted a racist ideology. She then explores the overall ineffectiveness of the initial response by blacks embodied in the film Birth of a Race which attempted to use the Bible to emphasize equality. The rest of her essay focuses on the methods of one particular black filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux, and his creation of films such as Within Our Gates and Body and Soul to respond to widespread racism against blacks in white films. Wiesenfeld takes a look at Body and Soul and demonstrates how Micheaux depicted blacks as thinking members of complex communities which varied according to class, education, religion and politics. She emphasizes this "complex" image of blacks which Micheaux chose to present instead of a deliberately positive one. Wiesenfeld also comments on Micheaux's use of religion and the Bible in Body and Soul to accentuate black rights and equality. Wiesenfeld's essay is extremely relevant to the investigation in that she explores directly the absence of a positive representation of blacks in Micheaux's Body and Soul. Nevertheless, she makes clear that Micheaux made his film as a response to racism in order to demonstrate the misunderstood complexity of blacks and their inherent claim to equal humanity. She would also argue that religion and the Bible were important concepts used by Micheaux to convey the equality deserved by all human beings. From this article I would assume that Wiesenfeld would reject the notion that Micheaux was racist against his own kind in creating films such as Body and Soul.