Last updated: 4/16/2011
Rhinebeck, New York
Street Address
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
Mailing Address
PO Box 86
Rhinebeck, NY 12572
phone: 845-516-4292
Archive open By Appointment Only
Museum Type(s)
John Kisch, Director
phone: 845-516-4292

39 year old archive dedicated to the history of Black Film.


Beginning with the gift of a single poster in 1972, The Separate Cinema Archive has grown over the course of three decades to become a respected and comprehensive collection of more than 35,000 rare film posters, lobby cards and photographs originating from over thirty countries. This astounding legacy, collected and maintained by Archive founder John Kisch, chronicles the historic and turbulent journey of the Black film industry, Black actors and directors, and indeed the arc of the struggle for African-American equality.

The Separate Cinema Archive’s mission is to share this cinematic legacy with the world, to better educate, enlighten and forge an understanding of the American and global Black experience. As The Archive continues to grow, it reaches out even wider to share the political, social, cultural and even racist history lessons inherent in this world-class collection by exhibiting in museums and galleries across the world.

Central to the mission of The Separate Cinema Archive is to shed light on a little-known existence of a black-owned and operated film industry in the early 20th century, in which black directors reigned, and where black characters were the leads, unrestricted to demeaning, stereotyped roles common to Hollywood productions. The Archive features numerous one-of-a-kind posters that are, in many cases, the last extant evidence of films now lost to time.

“Unlike the better-funded advertising for mainstream Hollywood movies,” John Kisch states, “the posters from this independent Black Hollywood were printed for miniscule budgets. However, the passion and conviction of these films is startling evident from the posters that survive. Originally created as cheap and disposable means of advertising, the Black Hollywood movie poster is finally acknowledged as an important visual document from a brief time when this separate cinema flourished.”

In 1990, Kisch collaborated with film historian Dr. Edward Mapp to create a companion book for the Archive. A Separate Cinema: 50 Years of Black Cast Posters (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) was a landmark in publishing. Covering the years 1916 – 1965, the book reproduces more than 200 color posters, many not seen for generations. Contributing to this exhaustive survey of the Black presence in American cinema were film historian and author Donald Bogle and award-winning filmmaker and human rights activist Spike Lee.

Separate Cinema is, first and foremost, an educational institution committed to sharing its resources with the world. The Archives remain accessible to both academia and the public, from scholars to schoolchildren. Since 1987, Separate Cinema has provided film poster exhibits for museums, film festivals, government offices, corporate galleries, libraries and prestigious art institutions worldwide. The Archive maintains traveling exhibits throughout the year, loaning exhibits that are either comprehensive historical overviews or those defined by theme. Exhibits can be customized to the individual needs of curators. Exhibits are complemented by film screenings, lectures, symposia as well as book, catalogue and poster sales -- all designed for optimal educational and fiscal benefit for the hosting institutions.

The Separate Cinema Archive continues its mission into the 21st century, supported by a prestigious cadre of this country’s foremost authorities on Black film, including Dr. Edward Mapp Donald Bogle, Spike Lee and Ruby Dee. Their influence and inspiration ensure that the Archive remains a valuable tool not merely for entertainment and education, but as a spur to greater understanding between all races.


Research Collections
  • Educational Programs

    Separate Cinema has provided traveling exhibits for museums, film festivals, government offices, corporate galleries, libraries and prestigious art institutions worldwide. The exhibits are an evocative exploration into the many enduring and memorable periods of Black film past and present.

    • The Vintage Years - Black Film’s Early Years

    • Jazzin’ Jammin’ & Jivin - The History of Black Music in Film

    • Blaxploitation - The Colorful & Controversial 1970s

    • From Slavery to Freedom - The Issue of Race in Film

    • Behind the Lens - Black Women as Director, Writer and Producer

    • From Micheaux to Morrison - Literary Adaptations to Film

    • The Black Soldier - The History of the Black GI

    • The Black Athlete - Breaking the Color Barrier in Sports

    • Harlem Goes West - The Black Cowboy

    • Saturday Sinners & Sunday Saints - Religion in Black Cinema

    • The New Black Hollywood - Contemporary Films

    • A Century of Black Film - The Complete History of Black films

    • Harlem Goes East - Japanese Artwork of American Black Films

    • Spike at 20 - A Retrospective of Director Spike Lee


    • Because Hollywoodn't - The Struggle of the Independent Film

    • Black and Blue - The History of Black American Humor

    • From Hattie to Halle - African Americans and The Oscar

    • Each exhibit is illustrated on the website along with a complete list of venues and press releases.

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