Micheaux ‘embodies the spirit of America’
by Terra Temple
Feb 19, 2014 | 1255 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Oscar Micheaux
Oscar Micheaux
It was a name Bayer Mack hadn’t heard before. But once he learned more about Oscar Micheaux, he was intrigued.

Mack is now awaiting the March 31 premier of his documentary series on The Czar of Black Hollywood on www.blockstarztv.com.

Originally from Murfreesboro, Tenn., and now making his home in southern Indiana, Mack is a writer, record executive and film producer who founded the independent record label Block Starz Music and its subsidiaries. He first learned of Micheaux from film historian Patrick McGilligan’s 2007 biography Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only.

“Like many people, I had no idea he even existed, and then to find out about his accomplishments — it was mind blowing,” Mack said. “Micheaux was a doer, not a talker. I immediately connected with him and his determination to succeed. He embodies the spirit of America.”

Oscar Devereaux Micheaux was born Jan. 2, 1884 in Metropolis, the fifth of 11 children born to former slaves from Kentucky, Calvin Swan and Belle Goff Micheaux. Ambitious, hardworking and illiterate, his father was a landowner by age 28. His mother was also uneducated but emphasized to her children the value of books and learning. A very religious woman, she taught her children the scriptures, along with Booker T. Washington’s teachings on black self reliance.

Micheaux was an adventurous soul whose father expected him to do farm chores with his siblings. While he made good grades in school, he felt unappreciated by his teachers, was thought strange by his fellow students and was classified by older adults as a worldly free-thinker who was a dangerous associate for young Christian folks.

Armed with his mother’s positive influence and his father’s proud example, both of which not only made a lifelong impression but also shaped his view of himself and the outside world, Micheaux dropped out of high school, leaving Metropolis for central Illinois where he spent six months working in a car plant and six weeks working in a coal mine before making his way by train to Chicago “where anything seemed possible for a hardworking black man with the right attitude and a desire to succeed,” Mack observed.

A barely 18-year-old Micheaux arrived in Chicago in early 1902. He stayed with his oldest brother, who was living rent free in a boarding house but charged Micheaux $6 a month, forcing Micheaux to quickly find a job. He started at the Union Stockyards, then a steel mill in Joliet. Coming back to Chicago, he registered with employment agencies and responded to want ads, all with no avail, so he shined shoes at a barber shop in Wheaton. From those shoe-shining tips, along with money he made pitching hay in the morning, Micheaux saved enough to open his first bank account.

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