Jacqueline Stewart (Ye Rin Mok)



She has been called the “pioneer of African American cinema.” Jacqueline Stewart is the host of “Silent Sunday Nights” on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), a program that showcases silent films from all over the world, including both feature films and silent shorts.

In 2022, Stewart was named director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. In this position, she guides the museum’s vision and oversees its operations. Previously, Stewart was its chief artistic and programming officer.

The Los Angeles Sentinel is delighted to share the work of film scholar and preservationist, Jacqueline Stewart for Women’s History Month.

Regeneration Black Cinema is an exhibit with an accompanying book. (Courtesy photo)

We begin with Ms. Stewart’s reaction to making network television history … 

“I got so many messages from TCM fans and people who weren’t TCM fans who started watching because I was on the network. There’s always a kind of edge to being the first Black anything at this point in history because it begs the question, ‘What took so long?’ I always think about carrying my communities with me wherever I go and I feel proud representing all the Black classic film fans when I’m on TCM.”

. . . And her love of old films.

“When I was a little girl, my Aunt Constance and I used to stay up late and watch movies after “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.” Because she had seen these classic black-and-white films in theaters, she shared with me her love and appreciation for them, the actors, and all the gossip too! That stuck with me all these years.”

What does “archiving” mean, and what are the job functions of a film archivist?

“An archivist, especially working with film, preserves the actual material of celluloid. Many archivists in film do the work of physical and digital preservation. Archival work ensures that we keep these legacies of filmmakers alive. The Academy Museum works with the Academy Film Archive. It’s one of the largest in the country. The amazing team there does the critical work of making sure that films that were made sometimes more than a century ago will still be viewable to audiences today and in the future.

“One of the reasons I was so excited to join the Academy Museum is because of its relationship with the Archive! The Museum also works with the Margaret Herrick Library (located in Beverly Hills at 333 N La Cienega Blvd.), which is a collection of scripts, photographs and posters.”

Talk about the important work of the National Film Preservation Board.

“Sure, I’m now chair of the Board. The National Film Registry is the annual list of 25 films that the Library of Congress picks every year that are deemed to be historically, artistically or culturally significant. We talk a lot about what makes a film significant. That could be a blockbuster film, home movie, an independent or student film. If you look over the past few years, you can see that the work of Black filmmakers, Latinx, Asian, and women make up a huge percentage of films that have been named to the registry.”

Can you share the inspiration behind “Regeneration Black Cinema?”

“It’s an amazing exhibition now running at the AM through July 16. The curators, Doris Berger (museum vice president of Curatorial Affairs) and Rhea Combs (director of Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery) started working on this in 2017 to tell the history of the importance of Black participation in filmmaking going all the way back to the 1890’s!”

So, what can visitors expect to see and do at the Academy Museum?

“You’ll learn that not only were Black people in front of the camera with the birth of cinema, but also that there was a separate, independent Black film movement – race movies – made for segregated Black audiences from the 1900s to the 1940’s. Black filmmakers did what they could to gain a foothold in the industry.”

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is located at 6067 Wilshire Boulevard in the Fairfax District. It is the first large-scale museum of its kind in the US. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/3ZBLhhq 

Links: https://bit.ly/3mZ9H64, https://bit.ly/3JKMSfb