Dallas-based African-American filmmakers bring legacy story to life

Just in time for Juneteenth, an educational and enlightening glimpse into Dallas’ past is being unveiled.

The hard-won legacy of the 1936 Hall of Negro Life is remembered in the film “Rising: The Hall of Negro Life” produced by the City of Dallas Office of Arts & Culture, Southroad Pictures, and Limeville Entertainment. Airing on KERA at 7:30 and 10:30 pm on June 17, 2022, the film is partially funded through Inspire Art Dallas, Fair Park First, and the National Park Service.

In spring of 2020, the Office of Arts and Culture (OAC) received a $50,000 grant from the National Park Service (NPS) to research and interpret the historic legacy of the 1936 Hall of Negro Life. Given both the historical significance of the story, itself, and the importance of properly showcasing it, OAC commissioned two of Dallas’ prominent Black filmmakers. The film was directed by Lindell Singleton and King Hollis of Limeville Entertainment and Southroad Pictures.

“The Hall of Negro Life was a watershed moment for African-Americans. What happened over that summer altered the trajectory of the push to obtain equity, recognition and social justice. It’s a story that had to be told and we’re pleased to bring it to life for this generation,” said Singleton. “It was an incredible discovery,” said Hollis. “To know about the city I grew up in, not knowing our contribution to civil rights, our contributions to the image of African-Americans during that century.”

(Screenshot / Vimeo)

“This is an important film because it documents a little known story about the history of African Americans in Dallas.” Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney President Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Rising recalls the events that occurred in the middle of the Great Depression when determined Black Americans of Texas lobbied for the opportunity to tell their story at the world’s fair, a first in the fair’s history. Fraught with broken promises from state legislature, the ultimate story of character and courage altered the tenor and trajectory of U.S. race relations. The exhibition was finally approved with fewer than 100 days to show time through the extraordinary efforts of A. Maceo Smith, who lobbied in support of federal funding to underwrite the exhibition.

“The Hall of Negro Life is a significant cultural moment in Dallas’ history. This exhibition of African American culture, achievement and history has been under appreciated and neglected as part of our city’s history. The film captures this inspiring story and the lasting legacy of The Hall of Negro Life beautifully,” offered Benjamin Espino, Interim Director, Office of Arts & Culture.

Visited by 400,000 Americans and visitors from across the globe, four site-specific murals framed the entrance to the pavilion. Painted by Aaron Douglas, the most important Black artist of the early 20th century, these murals welcomed visitors to the exhibition with a clear message of the importance of African American’s contributions to American culture in 1936. The hall also feature the Hall of Music, Arts, and Literature curated by Dorothy Porter; The Hall of Medicine and Public Health; The Hall of Religion; and the Hall of Medicine. For five months the federally funded exhibition was operational on the grounds of Fair Park during the Texas Centennial Exhibition then it mysteriously closed with no explanation. Out of the embers of destruction, a civil rights movement was born.

Being involved with the creation of this most important eye-opening documentary has been a joy, a great learning experience and a perfect vehicle for Inspire Art Dallas. “ Gail Sachson, MFA and Co-Founder of Inspire Art Dallas

For more information on the research about the Hall listen to the Rising Podcasts available on https://dallasculture.org/ongoing-projects/

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