3/8: Avery LaFlamme, “Fragments of Odessa Warren Grey” (with Race and Racial Ideologies Working Group)

Dear all,

Please join us for the last Mass Culture Workshop of the quarter, this Friday, March 8! This session, hosted in partnership with the Reproductions of Race and Racial Ideologies Working Group, will meet on Zoom. Details below.

There is no pre-circulated paper.

Your 2023–24 Mass Cult coordinators,

Joel and Hugo


Fragments of Odessa Warren Grey

Avery LaFlamme, PhD Candidate, Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago


March 8, 2024, 11 AM–12:30 PM, on Zoom

Meeting ID: 950 6576 9666

Passcode: 035430

In this presentation, I present ongoing research into the life and work of Odessa Warren Grey, a performer, milliner and entrepreneur who became an important figure of the black theatrical economy around Harlem in the early twentieth century. Grey recently reappeared to contemporary scholars through her starring role in the unfinished film Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913), one of the oldest surviving feature film productions with a black cast recovered from the Film Library at the Museum of Modern Art in 2014. I present an account of Grey’s public life, focusing on her beginnings as a performer, her retirement from the stage and the operation of her millinery. I offer a speculative account of Grey’s casting in Lime Kiln Club Field Day, a production that depended on Grey’s work while simultaneously effacing her impact. Lastly, I turn to Garret Bradley’s 2018 film America, which I argue represents a cinematic critique of historical narration that offers an encounter with Grey’s absent presence in black film history.

Avery LaFlamme is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. His work focuses on black film history, historiography, and the aesthetics of restoration, as well as black documentary and nonfiction filmmaking. His dissertation project focuses on the production, rediscovery, and reconstruction of the 1913 film Lime Kiln Club Field Day as a case study for the relationship between film, the archive, and the fragmented temporalities of black life. He also works as a graduate fellow with the South Side Home Movie Project, supporting archival initiatives and public programming.

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