Biographical / Historical
Scope and Content
Title: Dr. Pauline E. Brooks and Abye family collection
Identifier/Call Number: CEMA 190
Language of Material:
UC Santa Barbara Library, Department of Special Research Collections
10.41 linear feet
(8 oversize flat boxes, 1 document box)
Date (inclusive): 1916-1939
Brooks, Pauline E.
Abstract: The Dr. Pauline E. Brooks and Abye family collection consists of early Black film actor Clarence Ahart Brooks' personal collection
of films, early Black scripts and plays, documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, correspondence, lobby cards, and advertisements
pertaining to the Lincoln Motion Picture Company (1916-circa 1923) and other early Black filmmaking companies. Included, too,
are press releases, publicity plans, press reviews, organizing efforts and contexts of early Black filmmaking.
Clarence Ahart Brooks was co-founder and Executive Secretary of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company, the lead actor in at least
three of its five films, and an important force in emergence and development of the Black film industry in the United States.
The Lincoln was headquartered in Los Angeles, California, and is widely considered the first Black-founded film production
company with a national system of distribution. Created with the mission to more realistically portray the lives and experiences
of African Americans, the Lincoln's Black-cast films starkly contrasted with Hollywood's limited and stereotypic Black images.
The period of this collection, 1916-1939, overlaps with the height of Jim Crow segregation in the United States, when cultural
and legalized racial segregation and white racism were prominent characteristics of U.S. society.
Dating from 1916-1939, this collection consists of films, personal letters, screen plays, scrapbooks, and photographs collected
Physical Location: Special Research Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library
Language of Material: The collection is in English.
The collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Department of Special Research Collections, UCSB. All requests for permission to publish
or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Research Collections. Permission for publication
is given on behalf of the Department of Special Research Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended
to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained.
[Identification of Item], Dr. Pauline E. Brooks and Abye family collection, CEMA 190. Department of Special Research Collections,
UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.
Donated by Dr. Pauline E. Brooks (daughter of Clarence Ahart Brooks), Aman Brooks Abye, AyeNay Audra Abye, and Mikael Asseffa
Abye (grandchildren of Clarence Ahart Brooks), 2017.
Processed by Mari Khasmanyan and Natalia Gonzalez, 2018. Processed by Calli Force, 2019.
Biographical / Historical
Clarence Ahart Brooks (1896-1969) was a distinguished actor (stage and screen). He co-founded the Lincoln Motion Picture Company
(founded 1916), and was the company's leading male actor after the resignation of Noble Johnson. This American film production
company largely operated out of Los Angeles, California, with an office in Omaha, Nebraska. Lincoln Motion Picture Company
is widely considered the first movie company founded by Black filmmakers with a national distribution.
The founding President of Lincoln Motion Picture Company was Noble Johnson, who also acted in Hollywood films. Clarence Ahart
Brooks was Executive Secretary, Dr. James T. Smith was Treasurer, George P. Johnson was a writer and distributor, and musician
Dudley Alfonzo Brooks (brother to Clarence) was Assistant Secretary. The Brooks family (including Clarence's step father,
Leon Daniels), along with others, were among the earliest financial investors in the company.
The Lincoln Motion Picture Company's films included: Realization of a Negro's Ambition (1916), Trooper of Troop K (1917),
Law of Nature (1918), A Man's Duty (1919), and By Right of Birth (1921). The company also edited a one-reel pictorial news
film pertaining to race-related conditions (Lincoln News Pictorial, 1919), as well as arranged for the Cinematographic Division
of the French army to document Black troops at the front in World War I (The American Colored Troops at the Front, 1919, one
Lincoln films starred Black casts and showcased African American talent. These films by the Lincoln Motion Picture Company
and several other films in which Clarence Brooks played leading or featured roles reflected stories, issues, perspectives,
and experiences intended to more realistically portray the lives of African Americans and the diversity of their communities.
These images starkly contrasted with the often limiting and stereotypical portrayals of Black people and other people of color
common within the U.S. mainstream media of the era. After the Lincoln Motion Picture Company closed (ca. 1923), Clarence played
leading roles in Absent (1928), Rosebud Films (Harry A. Gant supervising producer), and in Georgia Rose (1930), Aristo Films
(Harry A. Gant, director). Clarence went on to play roles in other films: e.g. Universal Studios' Arrowsmith (1931) with Ronald
Coleman and Helen Hayes, and with Herbert Jeffrey in Harlem Rides the Range (1939) and Bronze Buckaroo (1939). Clarence Ahart
Brooks, Spencer Williams Jr., and others in Black cinema and theater also organized in efforts to accomplish the following:
generate opportunities for employment for African American talent, stimulate talent for the arts, uplift and perpetuate Black
theatricals, and promote and encourage talent in youth.
The Lincoln Motion Picture Company is significant not only because it was the first to produce and distribute Black films
nationally but also that it did so during an era of highly organized and legal racism in the U.S. that limited African Americans'
access to mainstream opportunities and institutions, including funding (because of racial discrimination from banks, limited
economic resources because of racially uneven wages, etc.), advertising outlets (limited mostly to Black newspapers), and
screening locations (not in mainstream movie theaters, but in Black- owned venues, churches, school auditoriums, etc.). Also
notable is the fact that several of these pioneers of Black cinema were very young. At the age of nineteen, Clarence Brooks
assumed the position of Executive Secretary of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company and was responsible for overseeing its business
endeavors, signing legal documents, performing in its pictures, and financially investing in the company.
Historical and biographical information provided by Dr. Pauline E. Brooks in consultation with Dr. Cara Caddoo a historian
with the University of Indiana.
Scope and Content
The Dr. Pauline E. Brooks and Abye family collection consists of Clarence Ahart Brooks' personal collection related to his
acting (stage and screen), filmmaking and presentations, business actions, and the general economic and racial contexts of
the era. A major part of this collection relates to Clarence Ahart Brooks and the Lincoln Motion Picture Company (1916-circa
1923), considered to be the first movie company founded by Black filmmakers with a national distribution. Clarence was co-founder
and Executive Secretary of this film company, and its leading male actor. This collection has professional and personal material
that includes original early Black scripts and plays, legal/accounting and other documents, photographs, films, newspaper
clippings, letters, lobby cards, and advertisements pertaining to the Lincoln Motion Picture Company and other early Black
filmmaking companies. Also included are press releases, publicity plans, press reviews, and other ephemera concerning the
broader context of early Black filmmaking of the time period, 1916-1939.
This collection is physically arranged according to record size, shape, type, or housing needs. The unique identifier originally
attributed by the donor to each each record is documented at the item level.
Researchers may also wish to consult:
George P. Johnson Negro Film Collection (Collection 1042). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library,
University of California, Los Angeles.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
African American actors
African Americans in motion pictures
African Americans in the motion picture industry
Motion picture studios -- California -- Los Angeles
Clippings (information artifacts)
Brooks, Pauline E.
Brooks, Clarence -- Archives
Lincoln Motion Picture Company -- Archives