Twelve minutes of 16mm color footage featuring famed Tuskegee University botanist and inventor George Washington Carver joins Prince’s autobiographical 1984 “Purple Rain,” Spike Lee’s breakout 1986 movie “She’s Gotta Have It,” and Disney’s 1959 “Sleeping Beauty” as part of this year’s annual selection of 25 of America’s most influential motion picture additions to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the slate of films for their cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the nation’s film heritage.
“The National Film Registry has become an important record of American history, culture and creativity,” she said. “Unlike many other honors, the registry is not restricted to a time, place or genre. It encompasses 130 years of the full American cinematic experience — a virtual Olympiad of motion pictures. With the support of Congress, the studios and other archives, we are ensuring that the nation’s cinematic history will be around for generations to come.”
In 1937, Allen Alexander, an African American surgeon from Michigan, convinced Carver to allow him to record the 16mm color footage. Alexander wisely shot the film using gloriously resilient Kodachrome, ensuring the colors remain stunningly vibrant and rich. The 12 minutes of fascinating amateur footage include scenes of Carver in his apartment, office and laboratory, as well as images of him tending flowers and displaying his paintings.
Also included is footage of a Tuskegee Institute football game and the school’s marching band and majorettes. The National Archives has digitized the film as part of its multi-year effort to preserve and make available the historically significant film collections of the National Park Service.
Video courtesy of the U.S. National Archives
The 2019 registry selections span a century of filmmaking — from 1903 to 2003. Titles include, in alphabetical order “Amadeus” (1984); “Becky Sharp” (1935); “Before Stonewall” (1984); “Body and Soul” (1925); “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999); “Clerks” (1994); “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980); “Emigrants Landing at Ellis Island” (1903); “Employees Entrance” (1933); “Fog of War” (2003); “Gaslight” (1944); “George Washington Carver at Tuskegee Institute” (1937); “Girlfriends” (1978); “I Am Somebody” (1970); “The Last Waltz” (1978); “My Name Is Oona” (1969); “A New Leaf” (1971); “Old Yeller” (1957); “The Phenix City Story” (1955); “Platoon” (1986) “Purple Rain” (1984); “Real Women Have Curves” (2002); “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986); “Sleeping Beauty” (1959); and “Zoot Suit” (1981).
The 2019 selections bring the number of films in the registry to 775, which is a small fraction of the library’s vast moving-image collection of more than 1.6 million items.
Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the librarian of Congress names to the National Film Registry 25 motion pictures that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. The films must be at least 10 years old.
The Librarian makes the annual registry selections after conferring with the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) and a cadre of library specialists. Also considered were more than 6,000 titles nominated by the public. More information about the National Film Registry can be found at loc.gov/film.
The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.
© 2019, Tuskegee University