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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

Love is the Message, The Message is Death

Artist:
Arthur Jafa, American, b. Tupelo, Mississippi, 1960  Search this
Medium:
Single channel video, color and black and white, sound
Dimensions:
7:30 running time
Type:
Video
Date:
2016
Credit Line:
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Joint museum purchase with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. Funding provided by Joseph H. Hirshhorn Bequest Fund; additional Gift of Funds from Nion T. McEvoy, Chair of SAAM Commission (2016-2018) and from gifts made in his honor by his fellow Commissioners, 2020
Accession Number:
2020.001
See more items in:
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Collection
Data Source:
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/py26a4e8a12-87c1-4b03-8357-87a0e6d8e795
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:hmsg_2020.001

Love is the Message, The Message is Death

Artist:
Arthur Jafa, born Tupelo, MS 1960  Search this
Sitter:
Jr. Martin Luther King  Search this
Medium:
single-channel digital video, high definition, color, sound; 07:25 minutes
Type:
Media Arts
Date:
2016
Topic:
Figure group  Search this
Ceremony\wedding  Search this
African American  Search this
Allegory\death  Search this
History\United States\Black History  Search this
Allegory\passion\love  Search this
Occupation\other\reformer  Search this
Portrait male  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Joint museum purchase with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of Nion T. McEvoy, Chair of SAAM Commission (2016-2018), and McEvoy's fellow Commissioners in his honor; additional funding provided by Joseph H. Hirshhorn Bequest Fund, 2020.001.
Copyright:
© 2016, Arthur Jafa. Image courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York / Rome.
Object number:
2020.3
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection
Department:
Time-Based Media Art
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/vk7acc0078d-bf63-4952-88bd-2901a2fe3cdf
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:saam_2020.3

Arthur Jafa magnumb [edited by Lærke Rydal Jørgensen, Mathias Ussing Seeberg & Arthur Jafa]

Title:
Magnumb
Interviewee:
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Editor:
Rydal Jørgensen, Lærke  Search this
Ussing Seeberg, Mathias  Search this
Host institution:
Louisiana (Museum : Humlebæk, Denmark),)  Search this
Subject:
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Jafa, Arthur Themes, motives  Search this
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Physical description:
211 pages illustrations (some color) 30 cm
Type:
Exhibitions
Expositions
Exhibition catalogs
Interviews
Catalogues d'exposition
Date:
2021
21st century
Topic:
Installations (Art)  Search this
Video art  Search this
African Americans in art  Search this
Racism in art  Search this
African Americans--Violence against  Search this
Art, American  Search this
Art vidéo  Search this
Noirs américains dans l'art  Search this
Racisme dans l'art  Search this
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1155424

Deana Lawson essay by Zadie Smith ; interview by Arthur Jafa ; editor, Brendan Embser

Title:
Deana Lawson an Aperture monograph
Author:
Lawson, Deana 1979-  Search this
Editor:
Embser, Brendan  Search this
Interviewer:
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Writer of added text:
Smith, Zadie  Search this
Author:
Lawson, Deana 1979- Photographs Selections  Search this
Physical description:
101 pages color illustrations 36 cm
Type:
Portraits
Photograph
Portrait
Photographies
Photographs
Date:
2018
Topic:
African Americans  Search this
Africans  Search this
Black people  Search this
Photography, Artistic  Search this
Portrait photography  Search this
Africains  Search this
Noirs américains  Search this
Noirs  Search this
Photographie artistique  Search this
Portraits (Photographie)  Search this
art photography  Search this
Photography  Search this
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1075753

Arthur Jafa, 1960- [Folder]

Additional name:
Jafa Fielder, Arthur  Search this
Contents:
Folder(s) may include exhibition announcements, newspaper and/or magazine clippings, press releases, brochures, reviews, invitations, illustrations, resumes, artist's statements, exhibition catalogs.
Topic:
Artists  Search this
Location:
Art & Artist files at the Smithsonian American Art Museum/ National Portrait Gallery Library
Data source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:SILAF_109913

Marcus Garvey [videorecording] : look for me in the whirlwind / produced and directed by Stanley Nelson ; written by Marcia Smith ; a Firelight/Half Nelson Productions film for American Experience ; WGBH Boston

Title:
Look for me in the whirlwind
American experience : Marcus Garvey
Author:
Nelson, Stanley 1955-  Search this
Smith, Marcia  Search this
Lumbly, Carl  Search this
Garvey, Marcus 1887-1940  Search this
Shepard, Robert  Search this
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Erskine, Lewis  Search this
Bostic, Kysia  Search this
McGeehan, J. J  Search this
Firelight Films (Firm)  Search this
Half Nelson Productions, Inc  Search this
WGBH (Television station : Boston, Mass.)  Search this
Warner Home Video (Firm)  Search this
PBS Video  Search this
Subject:
Garvey, Marcus 1887-1940  Search this
Physical description:
1 videodisc (90 min.) : sd., col. and b&w ; 4 3/4 in
Type:
Videorecordings
Biography
Place:
United States
Date:
2001
C2004
20th century
1901-1953
Topic:
African Americans  Search this
Intellectuals  Search this
Black nationalism--History  Search this
Documentary television programs  Search this
History  Search this
Call number:
E185.97.G3 M3644 2004
video 000788
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_828769

Kerry James Marshall / text by Kerry James Marshall ; essay by Terrie Sultan ; conversation with Arthur Jafa

Author:
Marshall, Kerry James 1955-  Search this
Sultan, Terrie 1952-  Search this
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Subject:
Marshall, Kerry James 1955-  Search this
Physical description:
128 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 28 cm
Type:
Books
Date:
2000
Call number:
N40.1.M3624 S85 2000
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_619724

A series of utterly improbable, yet extraordinary renditions / Arthur Jafa ; editors: Amira Gad and Joseph Constable

Artist:
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Editor:
Gad, Amira  Search this
Constable, Joseph  Search this
Host institution:
Serpentine Gallery  Search this
Subject:
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Physical description:
839 pages : illustrations ; 34 cm
Type:
Exhibitions
Exhibition catalogs
Date:
2018
Topic:
Blacks--Race identity  Search this
Blacks in art  Search this
Installations (Art)  Search this
Call number:
N6537.J3234 A4 2018
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1095007

My black death Arthur Jafa

Author:
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Author:
Smithsonian Libraries Artists' Books DSI  Search this
Physical description:
19 pages 19 cm
Type:
Books
Artists' books (books).)
Artists' books
Specimens
Date:
2016
Topic:
Aesthetics, Black  Search this
Art and race  Search this
Art, Black  Search this
Black--Race identity  Search this
Race in art  Search this
Artists' books  Search this
Call number:
E185.625 .O58 2016
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1086795

The messenger / by Nate Freeman ; portrait by Katherine McMahon

Author:
Freeman, Nate  Search this
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
McMahon, Katherine  Search this
Smithsonian Libraries African Art Index Project DSI  Search this
Subject:
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Jafa, Arthur Love is the message, the message is death  Search this
Type:
Articles
Interviews
Date:
2018
Topic:
African American filmmakers  Search this
Call number:
N1 .A782
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1091497

Love is the message, the message is death / Arthur Jafa

Artist:
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Writer of added commentary:
Tate, Greg  Search this
Sharpe, Christina Elizabeth  Search this
Host institution:
Gavin Brown's Enterprise (Gallery)  Search this
Subject:
Jafa, Arthur  Search this
Physical description:
62 unnumbered pages : illustrations (some color) ; 23 cm
Type:
Exhibitions
Exhibition catalogs
Place:
United States
Date:
2016
20th century
Topic:
Video art  Search this
African Americans  Search this
Race relations  Search this
History  Search this
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_1086500

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