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God's Step Children

Welcome back to The Classics Cafe.

February is Black History Month and the movie in public domain I have chosen for this time is the controversial 1938 drama, "God's Step Children".

Directed by filmmaker and author Oscar Micheaux, this picture is about a light-skinned girl, who struggles with her racial heritage while trying to pass for white. Based on a short treatment, "Naomi, Negress", written by Micheaux's wife, Alice B. Russell, this story was inspired by two previously produced Hollywood films, "Imitation of Life" and "These Three".

Though hailed as a masterpiece, "God's Step Children" has been criticized for its stereotypical views of fair skinned blacks as well dressed, intelligent, and sophisticated people while dark skinned blacks as swindlers, gamblers, or a well- meaning country bumpkin, in the case of the character Clyde in this story.

The National Negro Congress and other groups protested against the film for its harsh characterization of African Americans. The censors soon step in, raising concerns and objections of their own. They had some of the original films content removed. Scenes showing deeper examples of a young Naomi's hatred toward her own people and an adult Naomi with her white husband as she tries to pass for white were cut from the finished film.

Starring Jacqueline Lewis, Gloria Press, Ehtel Moses, Alice B. Russell, and Carman Newsome, this film touches on subjects of colorism, prejudices amongst blacks, and the urge to pass. All topics that are very much a part of black history and unfortunately, are still struggles within the black community today.

So, if you are ready for a tearjerker with a good story line, sit back with your favorite hot or cold drink. "God's Step Children", a 70 minute film, can be viewed on YouTube for free.

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