While the #OscarsSoWhite controversy raged over the dearth of people of color nominated for Academy Awards this past year, a group of digital humanities students at UCLA channeled their frustration into meticulously reconstructing the little-known history of silent films made for and by African Americans in the early 20th century.

What they found, and sought to highlight, is that African-American artists are deeply entwined in the history of filmmaking, and can be traced back to the medium’s beginnings.

The result of their efforts is “Early African American Film: Reconstructing the History of Silent Race Films, 1909–1930,” an informational website and searchable database that tracks the African-American actors, crewmembers, writers, producers and other artists who were making films during the silent era.

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