The Black King (film)

The Black King was a 1932 race film chronicling the rise and fall of a fictionalized charismatic leader of a back-to-Africa movement, modeled on the life of Marcus Garvey.

The Black King
Directed byBud Pollard
Written byMorris M. Levinson & Donald Heywood[1]
Edited byDal Clawson
Distributed bySouthland Pictures
Release date
  • July 1932 (1932-07)
Running time
72 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States


The Black King chronicled the rise and fall of a fictionalized charismatic leader of a back-to-Africa movement, modeled on the life of Marcus Garvey. The film explores numerous critiques of Garvey's movement, including the lack of knowledge about Africa, the presumptuousness in making plans for future development and government in Africa without consultation of people already there, and conflicts between lighter skinned and darker skinned African Americans.[3] While Garvey was a primarily a political leader with religious opinions, his counterpart in the film was primarily a preacher and religious leader.[4][3]


The Black King was written as a stage play by Donald Heywood and plans were publicly announced to produce it on Broadway directed by Russian choreographer Léonide Massine. This never took place. Instead, Heywood's story was adapted by Morris M. Levinson and it was produced as a film by Southland Pictures under white director Bud Pollard in 1932.[5] Leab, a 1975 commentator, rates it well as entertainment, saying it has "a more carefully plotted storyline than most other black genre films of its time".[3] The film was re-released in the 1940s under the title, Harlem Big Shot.[3]



  • Leab, Daniel J. (1975). "A pale black imitation: All-colored films: 1930–1960". Journal of Popular Film. Informa UK. 4 (1): 56–76. doi:10.1080/00472719.1975.10661756. ISSN 0047-2719. ProQuest 740764983.
  • Weisenfeld, Judith (2007). Hollywood be Thy Name: African American Religion in American Film, 1929–1949. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-22774-3.

Further reading

  • Gue, Randy (1996). "'It Seems That Everything Looks Good Nowadays, as Long as It Is in the Flesh & Brownskin': The Assertion of Cultural Difference at Atlanta's 81 Theatre, 1934–1937". Film History. 8 (2): 209–218. JSTOR 3815335.
  • Larson, Charles R. (1992). "The Black King Forgotten "Black?" Classic". Journal of Popular Film and Television. Informa UK Limited. 20 (2): 17–25. doi:10.1080/01956051.1992.9943965. ISSN 0195-6051.
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