Strong Rooted Volume I: Issue 5- Alice B. Russell May 25, 2017 (Republished)

We must know where we come from in order to get to where we want to go. Never forget your roots.

Being one of the first women producers is one thing, but being a Black woman is something else. It is a great pleasure to introduce those of you who have never heard of Alice B. Russell to her and her work, and it is an honor to remind those of you familiar with her work what an outstanding woman she was.

Russell was not only a producer but an actress and a musician. In her first movie, The Broken Violin, she plays Lelia, the daughter of a drunk father and a mother who is a maid. Lelia is an amazing violinist, but one day her drunken father comes home and demands all of the money from his wife, who refuses to give it to him, so he smashes the violin across her head. Abuse is a story all too familiar, but after her father dies, Leila can overcome adversity and gain great success in her musical career. Movies of struggle were popular for black actresses back then, but most of the time, the roles required playing a maid, something that black actresses worked hard to avoid in their real lives. Though abusive roles were not idea, some actresses felt the story was an important one.

Russell made five other films, A Daughter of the Congo, The Girl from Chicago, Murder in Harlem, God’s Step Children, and The Betrayal. Russell married director Oscar Micheaux who directed her in all six of the films in which she starred. Russell would continue to work at her husband’s side as a producer and a set engineer on his other films.



Alice B. Russell

Not much more is known about Alice Russell except that she was dedicated to presenting a positive image for Black women both on and off the screen. IN December of 1984, Russell died in New York.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion for reaching for the stars to change the world.” -Harriet Tubman. 

Reference: God’s Step Children (1938, trailer) [Alice B. Russell, Ethel Moses, Carman Newsome, Gloria Press]. (2017, December 22). Retrieved January 05, 2021, from https://youtu.be/TVbz2ad_y5E

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