On this day in 1916, the first Black-owned film company, The Lincoln Motion Picture Company, was founded.
Lincoln was the creation of African American actor Noble Johnson and his brother George Johnson (a postal employee in Omaha).
The company only lasted until 1923 but produced five films for African-American audiences. The first Lincoln production was a drama called "The Realization of a Negro's Ambition" (1916). The second was titled, "A Trooper of Troop K," (1917), which dealt with a massacre of Black troops in the Army's 10th Cavalry during the American operation against Mexican bandits and revolutionaries in 1916. The other three films were The Law of Nature (1917), A Man's Duty (1919), and By Right of Birth (1921).
In 1923, the company announced that its next production would be The Heart of a Negro. However a few weeks after this announcement, Lincoln Motion Picture Company discontinued operations. The increased cost of movie making in the 1920s and the widespread economic effects of the Great Depression forced most independent Black film producers out of business. The African-American community did not have the financial resources, especially in hard times, to sustain independent Black film enterprises.
George Johnson completed 37 years as a postal employee. He compiled an extensive collection related to blacks in the movie business, which is now held by the UCLA Research Library. Noble Johnson continued his acting career and appeared in more than 140 movies from 1915–1950.