Proud of East Texas: Tyler Black Film Collection

Deep in the vaults of the Hammond Arts Library at Southern Methodist University is a treasure of black film history discovered in a Tyler warehouse.

Tinsley Silcox, who's in charge of the collection, says when SMU Professor Bill Jones, now deceased, was contacted by a Tyler warehouse owner in 1983 to look at some discarded canisters of films scheduled for the dump, he never expected to find the riches they contained.

Most of the films, like the Dallas made, Jukebox Joint, were filmed on location.

The Tyler Black Films, as they're called, were made entirely by African America writers, producers, and technicians. Some professional black actors had roles, but passersby were often recruited for parts.

What is as important as who mad the black films is the fact that they were made for black audiences instead of white.

There are around 30  films in all including full length, shorts, and newsreels. Most such films were worn out or discarded along the way and the fact that the Tyler films survived in an un-airconditioned, unheated warehouse for so many years, Silcox says is nothing short of a miracle.

A grant has enabled SMU to digitize seven full-length feature films and seven shorts, it's hoped that future grants will preserve the rest.

For the first time, the Tyler Black Film Collection is available to the public in a three-DVD boxed set. The collection includes seven full-length films and seven short subjects. The DVD collection can be ordered online. For more information on how to order click here.

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