Friday Screenings Highlight Black Film History

Lonnie Braxton hosts series at Public Library of New London

There has been world wide knowledge of Hollywood and its film making. Recently the New London Public Library presented Lonnie Braxton, a man with deep knowledge of African-American films.

Braxton, a native of Mississippi, began his collection several years ago with his sister. It started with a few films and now his collection has ballooned to over 3,000.

This moviemaking history began around 1910 with a separate Hollywood where African-Americans made films that depicted their lives.

“If you went to the movies you didn’t think we existed in this country,”said Braxton. “If you went to a black theater and watched a couple of black movies, you know we did.’

Some early film titles include Souls of the Sin, Murder on Lenox Ave. and Harlem Rides the Range. Beginning last Friday, Braxton brought to light some of the lost treasures of the black film and film making as the library began its Black Film Festival in honor of Black History Month.

“He (Braxton) was here last year,” said reference librarian Tara Samul. "He received such a great response we had to bring him back."

About 50 patrons attended as multiple films were shown on the evening."Sarge" Robertson has lived in New London for a half century, and he's a frequent visitor to the library. "I am so proud that  New London recognizes the activity of this man," said Robertson. "I watched him grow from this to that to the other; he never let no grass grow under his feet. He's really got a fine collection here; and working with the library, that's something extra in itself."

Braxton and his son also enjoy several films together. In summarizing the history and legacy of the films, he said, "Nobel Johnson and others felt that the view of the people of color was wrong. If you watch people, they speak in correct English with complete sentences. They are the preachers doctors, lawyers, police chiefs all across the board all playing realist rolls.”

"This is my turn to tell the story," said Braxton. "I am hoping I can inspire some young person to pick up the mantle after me. If you want history its historic, but I want it to be our story."


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