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This chapter explores the media culture of uplift in which the motion pictures functioned, focusing on the campaigns of the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes, both live and in print, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These campaign materials—pamphlets, publications, photography, stereopticon displays, pageants, and songs—established the Institutes’ multimedia rhetorical strategies that conveyed their political and social program, and are important precursors to uplift films. While these materials were primarily targeted toward white philanthropists in the North, they also circulated among African American communities in the South as models of “uplift.” To understand this double address, the chapter traces the ways in which uplift cinema was rhetorically related to its multimedia precursors by establishing the existing rhetorical strategies that informed the emergence of uplift cinema and which comprised its exhibition context.

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