Seeds of Disunion: Classics in Black Stereotypy Film Series: The Littlest Rebel

Featuring the most enduring pairing of Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, The Littlest Rebel focuses on the tribulations of a plantation-owning family during the Civil War. As battles rage and the family is caught trying to flee, the little girl and the slave perform musical numbers together to raise money and secure a pardon from President Lincoln. The Littlest Rebel is also a testament to the enduring cultural practice of blackface minstrelsy, featuring a scene that often surprises contemporary viewers in which Temple, pretending to be a child slave, appears in blackface. Robinson and Temple formed the first interracial dance team on film, and The Littlest Rebel is a strong example of the complex cultural dynamics that governed their performances together. (David Butler, 1935, 74 min)

On the 100th anniversary of D. W. Griffith’s epic The Birth of a Nation (1915), Black Cinema House presents a series of important films in the history of Black representation that, due to their notorious reputations, many contemporary viewers have never actually watched, certainly not in their entirety. Jacqueline Stewart (University of Chicago professor of Cinema & Media Studies, BCH curator) and Miriam Petty (Northwestern University, assistant professor of Radio/TV/Film) will introduce the films and lead discussion afterwards.