Oscar Micheaux presents
Within Our Gates
With the renowed Negro artist
Written, directed and produced by
At the opening of our drama, we find our characters in the North, where the prejudices and hatreds of the South do not exist—though this does not prevent the occasional lynching of a Negro.
Sylvia Landry—a schoolteacher from the South visiting her northern cousin—is typical of the intelligent Negro of our times.
Indian Head, Saskatchewan Prov.
June 1, 1920
My Dearest Sylvia:
Words fail to describe my joy upon receiving the letter in which
you agree to be my wife. By the same mail I also received notice of
my transfer to Brazil. I will do everything in my power so that
within the month you can be mine.
I will send you a telegram around the date if my departure
Alma Prichard, a divorcée, is secretly in love with Conrad and ready to give marriage another try.
Conrad Drebert, Sylvia's fiancé.
—James D. Ruffin
Larry Prichard, Alma's stepbrother, who is pursuing Sylvia.
"Do pardon me for interrupting—but I forgot this…"
"I'm so sorry—but, really, I—well, I don't love you—and the truth is I am already engaged."
Philip Gentry, a detective.
Larry Prichard, alias "The Leech," whose
photograph has been sent to you, is one of the
most notorious members of the underworld and has
left this city, destination unknown. If he
should surface in your vicinity, keep him under
Sincerely, Chief of Police
LEVING TODAY STOP ARRIVE THURSDAY EIGHT PM STOP
Red, a professional gambler.
"I had a terrible nightmare…"
"… in my dream I saw him kill a man!"
Conrad arrives in the city.
And an hour later.
"Any explanation is pointless."
"Conrad! Conrad! I beg you to listen!"
"My God! I loved her so!"
[In a brief missing sequence, Conrad apparently rushes from the room and leaves the city, without awaiting Sylvia's explanation.]
[Some time later.]
Far from all civilization and in the depths of the forests of the South, where ignorance and the lynch law reign supreme, we find the hamlet of Piney Woods and the school for Negroes.
Reverend Wilson Jacobs, founder of the school and apostle of education for the black race.
Constance, his sister, Reverend Jacobs' sole ally in his unequal struggle against the Negroes' ignorance.
And in response to his small advertisement came Sylvia…
… and others—who could not read.
"The weevils ate up the cotton crop— and bein' as I couldn't pay the rent, they took ma mule."
"I hears 'bout your school—'n' so we walked from my place, a ways off, 'cause my children here don't do nothin' but say, 'Papa, without schoolin', we c'n never 'mount to nothin'."
"… so here I is, suh, ready to wark day 'n' night so's my children c'n get schoolin' 'n' be useful to society."
And then—the money troubles hit.
"The school has too many students, the money is just about gone, and Wilson hasn't the heart to turn away the new students who keep coming every day."
"The state pays only $1.49 a year to educate each Negro child—and the colored people who live here are too poor to help us."
And during that sleepless night she could think of nothing but the eternal struggle of her race and of how she could uplift it.
Meanwhile, up in the city…
"It's strange, but every time I pass by this pawnshop, I remember Red."
"I wonder where Red is?"
Sylvia makes up her mind.
"It is my duty and the duty of each member of our race to help destroy ignorance and superstition. I am going up north where I'll try to raise the money we need. May God be with us!"
Dr. V. Vivian, passionately engaged in social questions.
—Charles D. Lucas
The Literary Digest
CURRENT - POETRY
Rev. Thurston has begun an active
campaign for the education of the
black race. He asks that the federal
government contribute signifi-
cantly, so that Negro children is
all of the United States can receive
proper instruction. He has called
on a number of senators and con-
gressmen with the goal of…
Dr. Vivian takes a short cut to catch the thief.
Mrs. Geraldine Stratton, a rich Southerner passing through Boston—a bitter enemy of woman's suffrage, because it appalls her to thing that Negro women might vote.
Law Proposed To Strip
Negroes of the Vote
Senator Vardeman has intro-
duced a new bill against the black
race. In his speech, Senator
Vardeman said, "From the soles
of their flat feet to the crown of
their head, Negroes are, un-
doubtedly, inferior beings.
Therefore, how can we, in
conscience, permit them to…
After a week, Sylvia still has not been able to speak to any people of the city's rich people.
Mrs. Elena Warwick, a philanthropist.
In the hospital.
"Now that you are recovering, can you tell me what troubles you so?"
"And if I don't raise $5,000 in a short time, we will have to close the school."
FUNDS EXHAUSTED STOP WILL CLOSE SCHOOL
IN 10 DAYS STOP
"Come visit me when you can, and we will see what can be done to help your school."
"I am very interested in the cause of your race, and I will find the means to help in the most effective way."
"Since I have decided to give her my assistance, I would be most grateful if, as a Southerner myself, Geraldine, you could point me the best way to do so."
"Lumber-jacks and field-hands. Let me tell you—it is an error to try and educate them."
"Besides, they don't want an education. Can't you see that thinking would only give them a headache?"
"Their ambition is to belong to a dozen lodges, consume religion without restraint, and, when they die, go straight up to Heaven."
"Wasting $5,000 on a school is plain silly when you could give $100 to old Ned, the best colored preacher in the world…"
"… who will do more to keep Negroes in their place than all your schools put together."
Old Ned, as he is.
"The text of my sermon this morning will be 'Abraham and the Fatted Calf.'"
"Behold, I foresee that black people will be the first…"
"… and will be the last!"
"While the white folks, will all their schooling, all their wealth, all their sins, will most all fall into the everlasting inferno!"
"While our race, lacking these vices and whose souls are more pure, most all will ascend to Heaven! Hallelujah!"
And then… the offering.
"And now, my beloved brethren and sistren, I will request a small contribution."
"But before acceptin' your offering, I want to relate a deplorable instance that happened while we was in intimate conversation with Our Lord."
"Somebody has stolen money from the collection plate."
"I do not want to dispute the matter, but the person who stole it should come forth—and give back the money."
"I knew it!"
Monday… and old Ned pays a call on his white friends.
"Listen here, Uncle Ned—you're a good ol' colored man. What you make o' this?"
"It's about the Negroes' right to vote. We are all in favor of your people—but we can't be havin' Negroes voting."
"Y'all knows what I always preach. This is a land for the white man and black folk got ta know their place."
"Let the white man go to Hell with his politics, wealth, and sins. Give me Jesus!"
"Leave it to me, gen'men, I always preach that the vices and sins of the white folk will end them up in Hell. When the Judgment Day comes, more Negroes than whites will rise up to Heaven."
"Yessir, white folks is mighty fine!"
"Again I've sold my birthright. All for a miserable 'mess of pottage.' Negroes and whites—all are equal. As for me, miserable sinner, Hell is my destiny."
"And so, my dear, you needn't trouble yourself over this illusion of educating the Negro. Leave it to those of us who know them—and who know just what they need."
Sylvia, with hope renewed, goes to visit Mrs. Warwick.
Meanwhile, Dr. Vivian continues his study.
The Negro is a human being. His
nature is not different from other
human nature. Thus, we must recog-
nize his rights as a human being.
Such is the teaching of Christianity.
DONT CLOSE SCHOOL STOP NOBLE WOMAN PROMISES HELP
STOP DETAILS BY LETTER STOP
"Why didn't you let me know you were in the hospital?"
"I'll be right over."
"I have thought long and hard about what you told me about the Negro."
"But I must tell you that I cannot agree with your way of thinking."
"Indeed, I am convinced that the petition of this young woman is just. I have decided that, in place of the $5,000, I will send the school a check for $50,000."
Sylvia, her goal accomplished, returns south to the Piney Woods school.
"You are the most divine woman in the world, and… as my wife…"
Larry, for reasons that he (and the police) knew well, decided on a change of scenery—and went south to Vicksburg.
"What you think of this junk?"
"Not bad! Saturday is pay day. We'll hear over to the turpentine plant by that Piney Woods school 'n' unload 'em on all them dumb niggahs."
Saturday… the big business deal.
For this reason, Larry came around every Saturday.
"The school and the great service I am doing for our people are my happiness. This place is not for a person like yourself—and I beg you never to return."
"Oh, I'll never do it! Thief! Murderer!"
"You'll do it by next Saturday—or I'll let the school know just what sort of person you are."
"Liar! You miserable liar!"
In the night.
Larry returns north to his stepsister Alma.
"Oh, Larry, you should never have come back! Gentry has staked out the house."
Upon learning that Sylvia has returned north, Dr. Vivian searches everywhere for her.
While Larry, out of money, returns to his old occupation.
In consequence of attending to Larry's fatal wound, Dr. Vivian meets Alma. He hears an extraordinary tale from the lips of the woman who as repented her past actions.
"Sylvia is my cousin but she was, raised by a family named Landry—who were all lynched years ago."
"I must first confess—I was in love with the man to whom Sylvia was engaged. I intercepted a telegram he sent to her—and arranged that he discover her in a compromising situation."
Years ago, in the depth of the forest, but not so far that one could help hearing of a late afternoon the somber echo of cow bells stealing across the valley from the Gridlestone estate…
… lived the workman Jasper Landry.
Typical of the thousands of poor Negro laborers in the Great Delta, lacking education and the vote, but in whose heart burned an eternal hope:
… a home for their families, a few acres of land, a church to attend, and an education for their children.
His adopted daughter, Sylvia, who has been to school.
His wife, who loved Sylvia like a mother.
"It's wonderful! Together, you and Emil have earned $625. It will pay off our debts, with enough left over for me to return to school. But this time I'm taking Emil with me!"
Meanwhile, in the mansion-house.
Philip Gridlestone, landowner, aristocrat, and master of the neighboring lands.
He was a modern Nero, feared by the Negroes, envied and hated by the whites.
Efrem, his gossipy servant.
—E. G. Tatum
An incorrigible "tattletale," whose only pleasure was to take tales from one place to another.
Emil Landry, who saw his sister Sylvia as the most perfect girl in the world.
"Dat Landry gal been ta school 'n’ keeps her pappy's books now—so ya won't git ta cheat him no mo'."
"Just as I imagined it:"
"She is as educated as white girls now—so when you go pay the boss you tell him that."
But what they really said was:
"You should keep an account of all your purchases, sales, and debts so that…"
"… when you go to the Gridlestone house you can take the accounts and settle without argument."
And the following afternoon Jasper Landry went to make his payments.
While the spy…
"You're gettin' mighty smart, eh? But I'm on to you."
"And remember that the white man makes the law in this country!"
Yes, Gridlestone had cheated him, also, and when he had called him to terms, has laughed in his face, calling him "poor white trash—and no better than a Negro," whereupon he had sworn…
"I have always treated the coloreds well—but I remember that my father, who owned a thousand slaves, has callouses on his hands from…"
"… and he showed me that was the only way to keep 'em in line."
"Sweet Jesus! Landry done killed Gridlestone!"
And Efrem rushed to spread the news.
"I know you're gwine ta laugh a' me, but I'se the feelin' somethin' ter'ble has happened."
For this reason he was called the white man's friend.
"Hurry! Jasper Landry done murdered Mistah Gridlestone!"
"Landry done murdered Mistah Gridlestone!"
Off to the swamps.
In the night a storm threatens.
The storm darkened the moon that lighted the escape of the wretched ones.
All the evidence against him.
A week later—the manhunt continues.
Divine Justice punishes the real killer.
Efrem is in his glory.
"T'ain' no doubt 'bout it—da whi' fo'ks loves me."
"The people are gettin' impatient."
"Here I is 'mong da whi' fo'k, while dem other niggahs hide in da woods."
"While we's waitin', what ya say we grab this boy?"
"Bu… bu… bu' you knows me, Mistah John—ya knows I'se da one wha' tole you Landry killed Mistah Gridlestone."
Armand Gridlestone, brother of the murdered man, who has just arrived and joined the mob.
What the newspapers said:
Details of the Crime
Efrem, Gridlestone's faithful ser-
vant—and himself the recent victim of
accidental death at unknown hands—had
described the event as follows: Landry,
completely drunk, entered the office of
Gridlestone, who, with his accustomed
kindly manner, turned to greet him.
The murderer chased his victim around
the room, while the latter, wounded,
begged him for mercy, and then fell
to the floor dying, while the savage
Negro continued his attack without
Meanwhile, in the depth of the forest, a woman, though a Negro, was a HUMAN BEING.
"Justice! Where are you? Answer me! How long? Great God almighty, HOW LONG?"
HANGING OF THE NEGRO MURDERERS OF
The murderer Jasper Landry, having been
captured and having confessed to the crime
of which he is accused, will be brought under
guard by the citizens of Lawrence to
the place of execution.
And the same afternoon.
Sylvia, hidden the night with relatives who has promised to help her parents, remains ignorant of their fate.
Not satisfied with the poor victims incinerated on the bonfire, Gridlestone has come searching for Sylvia.
A scar on her chest saved her because, once it was revealed, Gridlestone knew that Sylvia was his daughter—his legitimate daughter from marriage to a woman of her race—who was later adopted by the Landrys.
And it was he who paid for her education. But while they were together in that room, he did not reveal that he was her true father.
And thus Dr. Vivian found Sylvia.
"Be proud of our country, Sylvia. We should never forget what our people did in Cuba under Roosevelt's command."
"And at Carrizal in Mexico."
"And later in France, from Bruges to Chateau-Thierry, from Saint-Mihiel to the Alps!"
"We were never immigrants."
"Be proud of our country, always!"
"And you, Sylvia, have been thinking deeply about this, I know—but unfortunately your thoughts have been warped."
"In spite of your misfortunes, you will always be a patriot—and a tender wife. I love you!"
And a little while later we see that Sylvia understood that perhaps Dr. Vivian was right after all.
A Micheaux Production