Lessons in Black History – NOBLE JOHNSON

Noble Johnson – Born in 1881, actor and filmmaker Noble Johnson appeared in his first movie in 1915. His career spanned five decades, including 144 films, and incredibly, he never played an African-American character (although he did play many jungle savages). Johnson was a contemporary and friend of legendary actor Lon Chaney, Sr., and like Chaney, Johnson was a man of a thousand faces. During his career, Johnson played mostly Native Americans, an occasional Chinese, a Russian, and various monsters (he was helped by his 6’2” frame). Along with his brother George, he also started The Lincoln Motion Picture Company, a film production company started to create movies with positive images of blacks. Their first production was The Realization of the Negro’s Ambition (1916), which the Johnson’s made in direct response to D.W. Griffith’s racist Birth of a Nation. The Lincoln Motion Picture Company soon folded, but Johnson enjoyed a long and prolific career, retired from film in 1950, and passed away in 1978 at the age of 96.

David F. Walker

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