The Colored American Winning His Suit

Year of Release: 1916
Genre: Drama
Rating: N/A
Runtime: Unknown
Black & White
Studio:  Frederick Douglass Film Company

Thomas M. Mosley (Bob Winall)
Ida Askins (Alma Elton)
Florence Snead (Bessie Winall)
Marshall Davies (Jim Sample)
F. King (Mr. Hinderus)
Fred Leighton (Colonel Goodwill)


Freed from slavery after the Civil War, the Winalls rent a farm from their former master. They prosper, eventually buy the farm, and have two children, Bob and Bessie, whom they send to college. Returning home as a lawyer, Bob falls in love with Bessie’s roommate Alma Eaton, however her mother wants her to marry a wealthy man instead. But when Alma’s father gets into trouble with the law, Bob goes up against a white man, Mr. Hinderus, in court and with the help of Colonel Goodwill, saves the day.  The white man’s attempt to “hinderus” having failed, clearing the way for Bob’s marriage to Alma.


First feature film made by a Black production company.  The Frederick Douglass Film Company of New Jersey, whose officers included some of the most prominent black citizens of Jersey City and whose purpose was “to give the public motion pictures which do not degrade the race.”  According to the press book, The Colored American Winning His Suit was aimed “to offset the evil effects of certain photo plays that have libeled the Negro and criticized his friends; to bring about a better and more friendly understanding between the white and colored races; to inspire in the Negro a desire to climb higher in good citizenship, business, education and religion.”

The New York Age (July 20, 1916), hailed the film as “the first five-reel Film Drama written, directed, acted and produced by Negroes” and praised the company, which was “owned and operated by Negroes” and “whose aim is to present the better side of Negro life, and to use the screen as a means of bringing about better feeling between the races.”

The cast was made up of non-actors from the Jersey City, NJ area. Scenes were shot in Virginia, Jersey City, and at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

This film is considered lost.

Source(s):  TCM; Literary Adaptations in Black American Cinema: From Micheaux to Toni Morrison by Barbara Tepa Lupack; IMDB.

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