Oklahoma Contemporary

Solomon Sir Jones Films

Solomon Sir Jones (1869-1936, Tennessee)
Solomon Sir Jones Films, 1924-1928
Selection of 23 digitized black-and-white 16mm film reels
Total duration: 05:46:53
Solomon Sir Jones Films, Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Solomon Sir Jones was a Baptist minister and businessman who also had an important career as an accomplished amateur filmmaker. Jones was born in Tennessee to former slaves and grew up in the South before moving to Oklahoma in 1889. The Yale University collection of Solomon Sir Jones films consists of 29 silent black-and-white films documenting African American communities in Oklahoma from 1924 to 1928. The films document a rich tapestry of everyday life: funerals, sporting events, schools, parades, businesses, Masonic meetings, river baptisms, families at home, African American oil barons and their wells, Black colleges, Juneteenth celebrations, and a transcontinental footrace. IndieWire termed these films “the most extensive film records we have of Southern and urban black life and culture at the time of rapid social and cultural change for African Americans during the 1920s, the very beginning of the Great Migration, which transformed not only black people as a whole, but America itself."
— excerpted from U.S. Library of Congress, 2016

Although the period of migration of the Black 1000 from Oklahoma to Canada precedes the years when these films were made, the footage from a total of 40 Black towns provides a lens on the robust cultural and economic conditions that the Black communities built in the state, unprecedented in the nation’s history. The enforcement of Jim Crow laws inevitably led to flight and the dissolution of many of these communities that used to thrive in more than 50 Black towns in Oklahoma. Ashanti Chaplin’s Earth Elegy, a video installation that pays homage to the 13 historic Black towns that have survived, can be viewed in ArtNow: The Soul Is a Wanderer in the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery on the second floor.

The selection of 23 digitized films shown here is based on the reels that included the towns in Oklahoma. Eight of these reels also feature footage of other places like Brooklyn, NY; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Jerusalem, Israel; Little Rock, AR; Los Angeles, CA; and St. Louis, MO.

Film 1 (1925, undated); 15:05 min.

Film 2 (1927, undated); 17:20 min.

Film 3 (1926, undated); 17:57 min.

Film 5 (1925-1926, undated); 14:21 min.

Film 6 (1926, undated); 16:28 min.

Film 8 (1925, 1927, undated); 15:04 min.

Film 9 (1925-1926, undated); 09:49 min.

Film 11 (1925, undated); 15:32 min.

Film 13 (1925, undated); 11:50 min.

Film 15 (1926, undated); 15:22 min.

Film 16 (1925-1927, undated); 17:23 min.

Film 17 (1926-1927, undated); 16:41 min.

Film 18 (1925-1926, undated); 16:04 min.

Film 20 (1925); 16:17 min.

Film 21 (1925, undated); 15:31 min.

Film 22 (1926, undated); 16:07 min.

Film 23 (1927, undated); 12:47 min.

Film 24 (1926-1928, undated); 17:35 min.

Film 25 (1926-1927, undated); 11:25 min.

Film 26 (1926, 1928, undated); 17:41 min.

Film 27 (1928, undated); 14:33 min.

Film 28 (1928, undated); 14:38 min.

Film 29 (1927, undated); 11:23 min.

The complete series of Solomon Sir Jones Films can be accessed through the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library website.


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Phone: 405 951 0000
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Oklahoma Contemporary
P.O. Box 3062
Oklahoma City, OK 73101

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