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Separate Cinema | Reel Art Press | October 2014

R_A_P Cover Separate Cinema

Release Date: October 2014

 Separate Cinema

The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art

John Duke Kisch

Foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Afterword by Spike Lee 

‘A brilliant overview of the last century of film poster art that … every student of African-American history and culture should experience.’ – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

 October 2014 sees the release of Separate Cinema, a magnificent volume celebrating the first 100 years of black film poster art. This captivating collection recounts the diverse and historic journey of the black film industry from the earliest days of Hollywood to present day. A fascinating visual history, it is accompanied by a foreword by renowned black history authority Henry Louis Gates, Jr., an afterword by Hollywood director Spike Lee, and in-depth accompanying text throughout.

Part aesthetic, part nostalgic, the posters have meaning to young and old alike, and possess the power to transcend ethnicity. From early independents to 12 Years a Slave, these posters represent a journey: they remind people of the pioneers of the past, those courageous and daring African-American filmmakers, entertainers and artists whose dreams and struggles paved the way for future generations.

This definitive history of black poster art touches upon the vibrancy of ‘first black film auteur’ Oscar Micheaux and other remarkable works by independent pioneers; it revels in the jazz infused glory of the incomparable Josephine Baker; seminal films such as The Exile, Cabin in the Sky, and Stormy Weather are profiled next to more contemporary classics like Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It and recent Hollywood blockbusters like Monster’s Ball and The Butler. Insightful text accompanies chapters on blackface and stereotypes, on apartheid, the influence of jazz, Blaxploitation, documentary film, the urban experience and the twenty-first century. The spotlight falls on iconic performers like Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr, Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy.

The wealth of imagery on these pages is taken from The Separate Cinema Archive, maintained by archive director John Kisch. The most extensive private holdings of African-American film memorabilia in the world, it contains over 35,000 authentic movie posters and photographs from over 30 countries. This stunning coffee table book is released to coincide with the archive’s 40th anniversary and represents some of its greatest poster highlights, published together for the first time.

Academic and foreword contributor Henry Louis Gates, Jr comments, “From the dawn of the silent era to movies screening digitally around the world today, black film, like any medium, reflects the journey of African Americans in society. And the posters these films generate and inspire constitute their own art form and pattern of representation, like a parallel visual universe, mirroring (not literally but figuratively, as acts of interpretation) what an artist or a producer felt to be the dominant message about race in America that these films contained: ninety minutes, say, reduced to one image, an image that over time, became both an icon and a work of art of its own.”

Filmmaker Spike Lee comments, “I’m proud to say many of the posters in the Separate Cinema Archive and in this great book are included in my own personal collection hanging on the walls of my 40 Acres and a Mule office … Movie posters are unique art themselves and I’m elated to see our black cinema reflected here.”

Book Information:
ISBN: 978-1-909526-06-8
HB; 320 pp; 260+ images;
290×245 mm / 11.4 x10 in.

John Kisch is one of America’s leading archivists, the quintessential word on rare and vintage poster collecting and the founder of The Separate Cinema Archive. 

Media coverage on Separate Cinema: LA Times, Creative Review, The Observer, Sight & Sound, Daily Mail, Shortlist.


About Reel Art Press

 “Reel Art Press is a publishing cult” – Esquire

 Reel Art Press specialises in exclusive publications with a focus on entertainment art. Their deluxe editions unveil largely unseen photography and celebrate the people responsible for capturing some of the most seminal moments in entertainment history. The company has made headlines around the world with its previous releases, which include: The Rat Pack, Bill Gold: PosterWorks, Hollywood and the Ivy Look, The Kennedys: Photographs by Mark Shaw, 50 Shades, Sid Avery: The Art of the Hollywood Snapshot and Audrey Hepburn in Hats.

Worldwide Press Enquiries:
Lisa Baker
Tel: + 44 (0)7768 310038 | Email: |

Download the full press release here.