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Pearl Bowser Audiovisual Collection

Names:
Andrade-Watkins, Claire  Search this
Bambara, Toni Cade  Search this
Dash, Julie  Search this
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Greaves, William, 1953-2005  Search this
Gunn, Bill, 1934-1989  Search this
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Jones, Robert Earl, 1904-2006  Search this
Massiah, Louis  Search this
Micheaux, Oscar, 1884-1951  Search this
Moses, Ethel  Search this
Robeson, Paul, 1898-1976  Search this
Sanchez, Sonia, 1934- (poet, reader)  Search this
Snead, James A., 1953-1989  Search this
Spence, Louise, 1945-  Search this
Tucker, Lorenzo  Search this
Donor:
Bowser, Pearl, 1931-  Search this
Extent:
approximately 100 Motion picture films
213 Sound cassettes (7 boxes)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Motion picture films
Sound cassettes
Sound cassette
Oral histories (document genres)
16mm motion picture film
Vhs (videotape format)
Place:
England
Harlem (New York, N.Y.)
Roanoke (Va.)
Memphis (Tenn.)
Date:
bulk 1920-2001
Biographical / Historical:
Pearl Bowser is a filmmaker, producer, author, lecturer, and highly acclaimed scholar of African American film who is recognized as an authority on the works of Oscar Micheaux, a noted writer, director, and producer of race films from 1919 to 1948.

Born Pearl Johnson on June 25, 1931, in Sugar Hill, Harlem, New York, she was named after her mother (also Pearl Johnson), a domestic worker who had been raised in a Catholic nunnery. On occasional Saturdays, the younger Pearl would accompany her mother to work in apartments in lower Manhattan, where she would assist her by folding handkerchiefs for a small allowance. After moving to a lower part of Harlem when she was about four years old, she met Harlem entrepreneur "Bumpy" Johnson, for whom she and other children in the neighborhood did odd jobs such as counting coins or attending to his ice-cream stand. Johnson, who would sometimes give the children joy rides in his Cadillac, occasionally allowed Pearl and the other children to borrow books from his extensive library, provided that they read them and submitted to a quiz.

As a child, Bowser had several racist encounters. For example, one of her white kindergarten teachers at her elementary school wore gloves in the classroom as to not touch Black pupils. She was also occasionally teased for having a gap between her teeth but felt insulated from sustained bullying because she had several older brothers who sometimes protected her. On a separate occasion, when she was about nine years old, her mother sent her on a trip from New York to the South to visit relatives. Although her mother had purchased tickets for her to be in a Pullman car, when she changed trains in Washington, DC., she was forced to ride in the car behind the engine, which left her covered in soot.

An avid reader, Pearl excelled in elementary and high school and received a scholarship to attend Brooklyn College, where she majored in biology. She supplemented her income by recording the numbers in one of Bumpy Johnson's shops. Disappointed with the quality of the education she was receiving, Bowser withdrew from Brooklyn College, eventually landing a job at CBS where she worked on a team that analyzed Nielsen ratings.

In 1955, Pearl married fellow New Yorker LeRoy Bowser. By the mid-1960s, although Pearl and LeRoy Bowser had separate interests, they both were working simultaneously in the civil rights movement. While LeRoy was active in Brooklyn CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and went to the South in the summer to teach for what was the beginning of HeadStart, Pearl, along with other production activists, took to the streets documenting African American culture and issues—working to bring these films to schools. Additionally, Bowser wanted to write a cookbook to earn funds for Brooklyn's CORE organization. She was approached by David Davis, the editor of Tuesday Magazine. Tuesday had distribution in the Herald Tribune across the country as a Sunday supplement. As the urban-world magazine exploded in Black communities, "Joan" Bowser's two-page pictorials on Southern cooking with a set of recipes became very popular in the five years she wrote them. Bowser retained copyrights to the articles, and easily completed her cookbook a short time later.

Bowser's colleague at ABC, Charles Hobson, found a used book written by Peter Noble about Black films and Oscar Micheaux. The volume was slim and contained what little information contained in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) files. Hobson and his colleagues wanted to write a book about the topic, and they assigned Bowser to begin the research. As part of the project, Bowser went to California to interview actors who may have been in early Black films or may have worked with Micheaux. What she learned began her intensive scholarship into Micheaux and his fellow filmmakers.

In 1971, she organized her first film festival, the Black Film History Series. In 1979, she organized the nation's first American women's film festival in New York City. She also presented a major retrospective, Independent Black American Cinema 1920-1980, which toured the country during 1981 and 1982. She also directed the Journey Across Three Continents film and lecture series, which toured the country from 1983-1985. Bowser also served as president of the prestigious Flaherty Film Seminar in 1987. In 1989, she, alongside Grant Munro, programmed the 35th Flaherty Film Seminar, which featured films such as Finzan, Zajota and the Boogie Spirit, Daughters of the Dust, and many more. She has also been a judge at the world-renown Pan-African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESCPACO) in Burkina Faso (formerly known as Upper Volta).

In the 1980s Bowser was awarded an independent artists grant by the Ford Foundation to travel west and collect oral histories from individuals in Oscar Micheaux's orbit, loosely following the route he would have travelled decades earlier. Stopping in cities such as Roanoke, Virginia; Memphis, Tennessee; and Jackson, Mississippi, she collected dozens of oral histories from actors, actresses etc. that knew Oscar Micheaux. Through this research she became an eminent figure in the Black independent film industry. Working as a programmer, she travelled around the United States and the world showing films by domestic and Black filmmakers within the Diaspora.

Despite her wealth of experience working as a programmer, it wasn't until the 1990s that Bowser made her directorial debut with the documentary film Midnight Ramble. Funded by American Experience, the film looks at African Americans and Hollywood movies from 1910 through the 1950s. In 2000, she, along with Louise Spence, co-authored Writing Himself into History: Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films and His Audiences, a book about the pioneering filmmaker. Additionally, she is founder and director of Chamba Educational Film Services, a film distribution company that specialized in distributing films by African American filmmakers. In the early 1980s, she renamed her company/collection as African Diaspora Images, a collection of historical and contemporary films documenting Black film history. She subsequently joined Third World Newsreel, where she was director of their theater department.

In 2012, Pearl Bowser donated her extensive collection of books, sound cassettes, films, film memorabilia, and papers to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Sources:

1940 United States Federal Census; New York, New York, New York, population schedule, p. 61B, house number 1486, family 195, Pearl Bowser; Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012 accessed: 10 Sept 2022); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm: m-t0627-02665

Bowser, Pearl. Pearl Bowser Oral History. Interview by Tuliza Fleming and Jennifer Lyon, July 21, 2011.
Provenance:
Acquired as a donation from Pearl Bowser in 2012.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research. Access to collection materials requires an appointment.
Occupation:
Filmmakers  Search this
Actors -- Interviews  Search this
Topic:
Documentary films  Search this
Film festivals  Search this
African American actors  Search this
African American actresses  Search this
African diaspora  Search this
Race films  Search this
African American motion picture producers and directors  Search this
African American women authors  Search this
Meetings  Search this
Conferences  Search this
Lectures and lecturing  Search this
Amateur films  Search this
Motion picture soundtracks  Search this
Oral history  Search this
Radio broadcasts  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound cassette
Oral histories (document genres)
16mm motion picture film
VHS (videotape format)
Citation:
Pearl Bowser Collection, National Museum of African American History and Culture
Identifier:
NMAAHC.A2012.79.AV
See more items in:
Pearl Bowser Audiovisual Collection
Archival Repository:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
GUID:
https://n2t.net/ark:/65665/io3209e9c6d-3045-4a0a-941e-6519385b18d5
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmaahc-a2012-79-av

Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols on Uhura's Radical Impact

Creator:
Smithsonian Channel  Search this
Type:
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2016-09-01T20:12:33.000Z
YouTube Category:
Entertainment  Search this
See more by:
smithsonianchannel
Data Source:
Smithsonian Channel
YouTube Channel:
smithsonianchannel
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_rtMNAHwPSgA

The First Female African American Pilot

Creator:
Smithsonian Channel  Search this
Type:
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2012-01-04T18:16:08.000Z
YouTube Category:
Entertainment  Search this
See more by:
smithsonianchannel
Data Source:
Smithsonian Channel
YouTube Channel:
smithsonianchannel
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_wckEiKzCBqc

How It Feels To Be Free | History Film Forum

Creator:
National Museum of American History  Search this
Type:
Interviews
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2021-04-23T21:33:56.000Z
YouTube Category:
Entertainment  Search this
Topic:
American History  Search this
See more by:
SmithsonianAmHistory
Data Source:
National Museum of American History
YouTube Channel:
SmithsonianAmHistory
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_qEtR4hLp4_4

African American Women on Postage Stamps, by Alexander Haimann

Creator:
National Postal Museum  Search this
Type:
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2009-06-03T18:32:13.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
Topic:
Postal service;Letter mail handling;Stamp collecting  Search this
See more by:
SmithsonianNPM
Data Source:
National Postal Museum
YouTube Channel:
SmithsonianNPM
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_KxzMtl8eANI

African American Women’s Activism in Historical Perspective

Creator:
Smithsonian Affiliates  Search this
Type:
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2021-03-11T20:20:20.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
See more by:
SmithsonianNeighbor
Data Source:
Smithsonian Affiliates
YouTube Channel:
SmithsonianNeighbor
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_-uA_4ISOr4Y

Bessie Coleman: The Centennial of a Pioneering Pilot

Creator:
National Air and Space Museum  Search this
Type:
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2021-11-03T00:54:30.000Z
YouTube Category:
People & Blogs  Search this
Topic:
Aeronautics;Flight;Space Sciences  Search this
See more by:
airandspace
Data Source:
National Air and Space Museum
YouTube Channel:
airandspace
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_1Pxyfrd_1gA

Interview of Bessie Coleman, portrayed by her great niece, Gigi Coleman Broome

Creator:
National Air and Space Museum  Search this
Type:
Interviews
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2022-02-09T17:30:54.000Z
YouTube Category:
People & Blogs  Search this
Topic:
Aeronautics;Flight;Space Sciences  Search this
See more by:
airandspace
Data Source:
National Air and Space Museum
YouTube Channel:
airandspace
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_4mXoI4l1NXs

Looking Closely: Bessie Coleman

Creator:
National Air and Space Museum  Search this
Type:
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2021-12-21T18:03:34.000Z
YouTube Category:
People & Blogs  Search this
Topic:
Aeronautics;Flight;Space Sciences  Search this
See more by:
airandspace
Data Source:
National Air and Space Museum
YouTube Channel:
airandspace
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_6BiSkhFakNs

Teacher Workshop | Traces of a Life in Bondage: Flora’s Silhouette

Creator:
National Portrait Gallery  Search this
Type:
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2022-04-04T15:48:18.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
Topic:
Portraits  Search this
See more by:
NatlPortraitGallery
Data Source:
National Portrait Gallery
YouTube Channel:
NatlPortraitGallery
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_lKXG4mqSfMg

Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture

Creator:
National Museum of African American History and Culture  Search this
Type:
Conversations and talks
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2018-06-08T15:42:24.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
Topic:
African Americans  Search this
See more by:
WatchNMAAHC
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
YouTube Channel:
WatchNMAAHC
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_D0ohM_xfMQM

Ask Oprah: How do you see your place in history?

Creator:
National Museum of African American History and Culture  Search this
Type:
Interviews
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2018-06-08T17:31:09.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
Topic:
African Americans  Search this
See more by:
WatchNMAAHC
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
YouTube Channel:
WatchNMAAHC
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_FzeBjCm46P8

Black Women's Clubs Fought for Voting Rights

Creator:
Smithsonian Institution  Search this
Type:
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2020-08-01T15:19:27.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
See more by:
SmithsonianVideos
Data Source:
Smithsonian Institution
YouTube Channel:
SmithsonianVideos
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_H6DtBUoy08E

Ask Oprah: Is there a moment that stands out as a milestone in your career?

Creator:
National Museum of African American History and Culture  Search this
Type:
Interviews
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2018-06-08T17:32:19.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
Topic:
African Americans  Search this
See more by:
WatchNMAAHC
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
YouTube Channel:
WatchNMAAHC
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_L-JGD7rFaiE

#APeoplesJourney: African American Women and the Struggle for Equality

Creator:
National Museum of African American History and Culture  Search this
Type:
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2017-08-29T15:20:45.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
Topic:
African Americans  Search this
See more by:
WatchNMAAHC
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
YouTube Channel:
WatchNMAAHC
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_X5H80Nhmn20

Black Women's Clubs Fought for Voting Rights (Narrated)

Creator:
Smithsonian Institution  Search this
Type:
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2022-01-21T21:31:23.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
See more by:
SmithsonianVideos
Data Source:
Smithsonian Institution
YouTube Channel:
SmithsonianVideos
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_b4Pe3JBCG4E

Ask Oprah: How did you discover your purpose?

Creator:
National Museum of African American History and Culture  Search this
Type:
Interviews
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2018-06-08T17:32:06.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
Topic:
African Americans  Search this
See more by:
WatchNMAAHC
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
YouTube Channel:
WatchNMAAHC
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_fAz9qLTC4EY

Ask Oprah: How would you describe The Oprah Winfrey Show?

Creator:
National Museum of African American History and Culture  Search this
Type:
Interviews
YouTube Videos
Uploaded:
2018-06-08T17:32:32.000Z
YouTube Category:
Education  Search this
Topic:
African Americans  Search this
See more by:
WatchNMAAHC
Data Source:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
YouTube Channel:
WatchNMAAHC
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:yt_o6pXgmPMuzw

American people

Interviewer:
Gioni, Massimiliano  Search this
Curator:
Carrion-Murayari, Gary  Search this
Author:
Lippard, Lucy R.,  Search this
Godfrey, Mark (Mark Benjamin),)  Search this
Baraka, Amiri 1934-2014  Search this
Brooks, LeRonn P  Search this
Bryan-Wilson, Julia  Search this
Cooks, Bridget R. 1972-  Search this
Whitley, Zoé  Search this
Casteel, Jordan  Search this
Self, Tschabalala 1990-  Search this
Brackens, Diedrick 1989-  Search this
Wallace, Michele  Search this
Interviewee:
Ringgold, Faith  Search this
Author:
Container of (work): Ringgold, Faith Works Selections  Search this
Host institution:
New Museum (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
M.H. de Young Memorial Museum  Search this
Publisher:
Phaidon Press  Search this
Subject:
New Museum (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Physical description:
239 pages illustrations (chiefly color), color map, portraits (chiefly color) 30 cm
Type:
Exhibitions
Interviews
Expositions
Exhibition catalogs
Essays
Illustrated works
Place:
New York (State)
New York
Date:
2022
21st century
20th century
Topic:
African American women artists  Search this
Art, American  Search this
African American art  Search this
African American quilts  Search this
African Americans--History--In art  Search this
African Americans in art  Search this
Femmes artistes noires américaines  Search this
Call number:
N40.1.R5823 G48 2022
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1158037

Beyond the rim : from slavery to redemption in Rappahannock County, Virginia / by James D. Russell

Author:
Russell, James D. 1921-  Search this
Subject:
Terry, Caroline  Search this
Physical description:
91 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Type:
Biography
Place:
Virginia
Rappahannock County
Rappahannock County (Va.)
Date:
2003
C2003
Topic:
Slavery--History  Search this
Slaves  Search this
African american women  Search this
African Americans  Search this
History  Search this
Call number:
E445.V8 R87 2003
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_735580

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