Abstract: The Brothers Johnson: The Lincoln Film Company and the Role of Black Business in Creating Black Modernity, Culture and Identity

Yuri Campbell


The Lincoln Motion Picture Company, America's first film-making concern owned and operated by African Americans, was started by brothers Noble and George Johnson in 1916. Hailing from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Muskogee, Oklahoma, the Johnson brothers were raised in a largely white, middle-class community by a father whose expertise in horse training allowed him to go into business for himself. It is the aim of this paper to investigate that background so as to illuminate the community dynamics involved in the creation of the Johnson brothers' entrepreneurial spirit, an inquiry that hopes to both broaden our understanding of African American experiences with self-owned businesses that centered on technological know-how and the importance that the growth of black business had for African American culture and identity. This study will focus on ideas of whiteness as they relate business methods and the place of African Americans in the business world, along with the resulting influence film-making as business had on African American culture during the years leading up to the "New Negro" of the Harlem Renaissance.