SMU receives grant to preserve national film treasure

Promotional poster for 'The Blood of Jesus'The G. William Jones Film and Video Collection at SMU’s Hamon Arts Library has received a National Film Preservation Foundation grant for $27,270 to preserve Spencer Williams’ classic 1941 film, The Blood of Jesus, the hugely successful African American salvation drama.

These funds will allow the library to use its print – the only known 35mm print in existence – to create a new negative, prints, and videos. These new materials will be available for teaching and research, and the library will be making them available to the public through a number of screenings.

The debut screening of the new print is planned for February 2009 in conjunction with a conference on African American author and filmmaker Oscar Micheaux at Columbia University.

The Blood of Jesus, shot in Texas on a shoestring budget, is probably the most popular movie made for African American audiences before World War II,” said Jacqueline Stewart, professor of film at Northwestern University and National Film Preservation Board member. “It is the first feature by writer-director Spencer Williams, later a star of TV’s Amos ‘n’ Andy, whose films have been vastly underappreciated despite his unique ability to capture Black religious and cultural practices while experimenting with film style.”

The Blood of Jesus was named by the Library of Congress to the National Film Registry in 1991.

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