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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
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

Imperfect journey [videorecording] / a film by Haile Gerima ; a Low Flying Pictures co-production with BBC ... [et al.]

Author:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Kapuściński, Ryszard  Search this
Coggins, Andrew  Search this
Low Flying Pictures (Firm)  Search this
British Broadcasting Corporation  Search this
First Run/Icarus Films  Search this
Physical description:
1 videocassette (88 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in
Type:
Videorecordings
Documentary films
Place:
Ethiopia
Date:
1994
1974-
Topic:
Social conditions  Search this
Economic conditions  Search this
Call number:
DT379.5 .I56 1994
video 000981
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_902477

Filmmaker wins fight for "Adwa"

Author:
Reaves, Michele  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile Adwa: an African victory  Search this
Type:
Articles
Date:
2000
1999
Topic:
Adwa, Battle of, Adwa, Ethiopia, 1896, in motion pictures  Search this
Call number:
DT371 .E845
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_749481

From Africa to the Americas : interviews with Haile Gerima (1976-2001)

Author:
Pfaff, Françoise  Search this
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Type:
Articles
Interviews
Place:
Ethiopia
Date:
2004
Topic:
Filmmakers  Search this
Call number:
PN1993.5.A35 F63 2004
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_761081

Haile Gerima (Ethiopia)

Author:
Ukadike, Nwachukwu Frank  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Type:
Articles
Interviews
Date:
2002
Call number:
PN1993.5.A35 U45 2002X
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_752501

Haile Gerima's Pan-African "Message to the grassroots" : hearing Malcolm X in Amharic-- or Harvest 3000 years / Greg Thomas

Author:
Thomas, Greg 1969-  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile Criticism and interpretation  Search this
Gerima, Haile Harvest 3000 years  Search this
X, Malcolm 1925-1965 Influence  Search this
Type:
Articles
Date:
2010
Call number:
PL8010 .F55 2010
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1030230

Teza [videorecording] / Negodgwad Productions ; Pandora Film ; in co-production with Unlimited and Westdeutscher Rundfunk ... [et al.] present ; a film by Haile Gerima & the makers of SANKOFA ; written and directed by Haile Gerima ; produced by Haile Gerima and Karl Baumgartner

Title:
Morning dew
Author:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Baumgartner, Karl  Search this
Masini, Mario  Search this
Hauser, Maya  Search this
Hankin, Loren  Search this
Mesfin, Jorga  Search this
Ruggle, Walter 1955-  Search this
Arefe, Aaron  Search this
Tedla, Abeye  Search this
Beyene, Takelech  Search this
Tesfahun, Teje  Search this
Baye, Nebiyu  Search this
Zelalem, Mengistu  Search this
Bayu, Wuhib  Search this
Tsega, Zenahbezu  Search this
Abrham, Asrate  Search this
Johnston-Arthur, Araba Evelyn  Search this
Iyer, Vijay  Search this
Avraham, Veronika  Search this
Negod-Gwad Productions  Search this
Pandora Film (Firm)  Search this
Unlimited (Firm : France)  Search this
Westdeutscher Rundfunk  Search this
Trigon-Film  Search this
Mypheduh Films  Search this
Physical description:
1 videodisc (133 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in
Type:
Videorecordings
Drama
Melodramas (Motion pictures)
Feature films
Fiction films
Motion pictures, Ethiopian
Motion pictures, German
Motion pictures, French
DVD-Video discs
Place:
Ethiopia
Video recordings for Amharic speakers
Date:
2008
C2008
1974-1991
Topic:
Dissenters  Search this
Human rights  Search this
Amharic language  Search this
Politics and government  Search this
Call number:
video 001360
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1036605

Haile Gerima : Adua, lorsque nous étion des voyageurs actifs de l'histoire = Haile Gerima : Adowa, when we were active travellers in history

Author:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Speciale, Alessandra  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile Adowa 1896  Search this
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Type:
Articles
Interviews
Place:
Ethiopia
Date:
1998
Topic:
Adwa, Battle of, Adwa, Ethiopia, 1896, in motion pictures  Search this
Motion pictures, Ethiopian  Search this
Filmmakers  Search this
Call number:
PN1993.5.A35 E27X
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_680544

The internal dialogue of an African film maker

Author:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Coplan, David B (David Bellin)  Search this
Thompson, Bridget  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Type:
Articles
Place:
Africa
Date:
1996
Topic:
Motion picture industry  Search this
Motion pictures, African--History and criticism  Search this
Filmmakers  Search this
Call number:
DT14 .T75 1996X
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_680952

Through the door of no return [videorecording] / a film by Shirikiana Aina ; produced by Negod Gwad Productions, Inc. & Elimu Productions, Inc

Author:
Aina, Shirikiana  Search this
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Negod-Gwad Productions  Search this
Elimu Productions  Search this
Mypheduh Films  Search this
Subject:
Elmina Castle (Elmina, Ghana)  Search this
Physical description:
1 videocassette (80 min.) : sd., col. with b&w sequences ; 1/2 in
Type:
Videorecordings
Place:
United States
Ghana
Date:
1997
C1997
Topic:
African Americans--Race identity  Search this
African diaspora--History  Search this
Slave trade--History  Search this
Slavery  Search this
History  Search this
Call number:
E29.N3 T487 1997
Video 000443
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_633905

Podium for the truth? : reading slavery and the neocolonial project in the historical film : Queimada! (Burn!) and Sankofa in counterpoint

Author:
Martin, Michael T  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile Sankofa  Search this
Pontecorvo, Gillo 1919-2006 Queimada!  Search this
Type:
Articles
Date:
2009
Topic:
Slavery in motion pictures  Search this
Colonies in motion pictures  Search this
Call number:
NX1 .T445
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_957057

Adwa, an African victory [videorecording] / a Haile Gerima film ; a Negod Gwad Production In Co-Production with ZDF/ARTE

Author:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Cubano, Agustin  Search this
Astatke, Mulatu 1943-  Search this
Bailey, Albert  Search this
Negod-Gwad Productions  Search this
Mypheduh Films  Search this
Subject:
Menelik II Negus of Ethiopia 1844-1913  Search this
Taitu Empress, consort of Menelik II, Negus of Ethiopia -1918  Search this
Physical description:
1 videodisc (97 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in
Type:
Videorecordings
Place:
Ethiopia
Date:
2003
1999
1889-1974
Topic:
Adwa, Battle of, Adwa, Ethiopia, 1896  Search this
Italo-Ethiopian War, 1895-1896  Search this
History  Search this
Call number:
video 001080
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_937176

Selling Sankofa

Author:
Dennis, Raoul  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile Sankofa  Search this
Type:
Articles
Place:
Ethiopia
Ghana
Africa
Date:
1995
Topic:
Filmmakers  Search this
Motion picture producers and directors  Search this
Motion pictures--Distribution  Search this
Slave trade--Drama  Search this
Historical films  Search this
In motion pictures  Search this
Call number:
E185.5 .Y75X
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_505633

Meeting Haile Gerima : filmmaking strategies

Author:
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Type:
Articles
Place:
Ethiopia
Date:
2006
Topic:
Filmmakers  Search this
Call number:
ML21.S6 R66
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_934935

Haïlé Gerima, cinéaste de milieu du monde

Author:
Delorme, Christine  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Type:
Articles
Place:
Ethiopia
Date:
1987
Topic:
Filmmakers  Search this
Call number:
DT367 .C813 1987
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_546397

Cinema is a weapon Kwame Karikari

Author:
Karikari, Kwame  Search this
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Type:
Articles
Place:
Ethiopia
Date:
1989
Topic:
Filmmakers  Search this
Call number:
DT491 .W516
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_997547

Art and ideology in the work of Sembène Ousmane and Hailé Gerima

Author:
Cham, Mbye B  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Sembène, Ousmane 1923-2007 Criticism and interpretation  Search this
Gerima, Haile Criticism and interpretation  Search this
Type:
Articles
Date:
1984
Topic:
Motion pictures, African--History and criticism  Search this
Call number:
DT1 .P933
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_548206

Artistic and ideological convergence : Ousmane Sembene and Haile Gerima

Author:
Cham, Mbye B  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Sembène, Ousmane 1923-2007 Criticism and interpretation  Search this
Gerima, Haile Criticism and interpretation  Search this
Type:
Articles
Place:
Senegal
Ethiopia
Date:
1981
1982
Topic:
Filmmakers  Search this
Call number:
DT1 .U233
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_546143

Look homeward, Angel : maroons and mulattos in Haile Gerima's Sankofa

Author:
Kandé, Sylvie  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile Criticism and interpretation  Search this
Type:
Articles
Place:
Ghana
Date:
1998
Topic:
African diaspora in motion pictures  Search this
Maroons in motion pictures  Search this
Slavery in motion pictures  Search this
In motion pictures  Search this
Call number:
PL8010 .R46X
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_553512

Filming slavery : a conversation with Haile Gerima

Author:
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Woolford, Pamela  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Gerima, Haile Criticism and interpretation  Search this
Gerima, Haile Sankofa  Search this
Gerima, Haile  Search this
Type:
Articles
Interviews
Place:
Ethiopia
Ghana
Africa
Date:
1994
Topic:
Filmmakers  Search this
Motion picture producers and directors  Search this
Historical films  Search this
Slave trade--Drama  Search this
In motion pictures  Search this
Call number:
DT433.2 .T772
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_505176

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