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FEBRUARY 16

If you think 1915’s Birth of a Nation introduced moviegoing America to blacks on film, think again. D.W. Griffith’s silent racist epic appeared one year after George Sheldon’s The Nigger, and before that Thomas Edison had filmed a number of shorts on the subject of African-American Army troops, before unleashing on the world such thankfully lost sketches as 1904’s Ten Pickaninnies. The history of black involvement in film is as old as the medium itself, and Rutgers University assistant professor Jesse Algeron Rhines has produced a meticulous academic study of the uneasy alliance between the thinkers and the backers, called Black Film/White Money. Rhines’ slim volume explores white financiers’ traditional reluctance to produce, distribute, or exhibit the products of African-American film artistry against the twin backdrops of both external forces, such as world wars and the American cultural climate, as well as internal ones, like tremors within the film or black communities. From the days of silents to Depression-era gangster films, from blaxploitation to the sexless “good Negro” of well-meaning ’60s tolerance lessons, on up to the ’80s boom in independents, Rhines’ study is never less than eye-opening. Rhines reads and signs at 2 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 3040 M St. NW. FREE. (202) 965-9880. (Arion Berger)