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Film / The Symbol of the Unconquered

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Be strong my child and remember that in the worst moments of distress... you must never, never despair!

The Symbol of the Unconquered is a 1920 film directed by Oscar Micheaux. It's a Race Film aimed as a Take That! against The Birth of a Nation. It is his second Take That! at the film after Within Our Gates, which was released ten months earlier.

The story stars Eve Mason, a young black woman who inherits a cabin and a large amount of land after her grandfather's death. Eve soon leaves Alabama for her inheritance. She moves northwest to the fictional town of Oristown. Her first night in town, Eve tries to stay at Driscoll Hotel but its owner, Jefferson Driscoll, hates black people and forces her to sleep in the barn. The irony of the situation is that Jefferson himself is part-black and passing as white.

The next morning Eve comes across a young prospector named Hugh Van Allen. It turns out they're neighbors and the two become friends.


Trouble quickly ensues when two criminals, August Barr and his friend Tugi, want Eve's land. Things get worse when the duo enlist the help of the Ku Klux Klan. In the end, the Klan is run out of town and all is well.

The only surviving print of the film is a version with French and Flemish intertitles. It's an incomplete copy with a few missing scenes.

This film provides example of:

  • Abusive Offspring: In a flashback, Jefferson strangles his own mother (not to death, however).
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: The reason Jefferson hates his black side is because of a woman he was courting. She was white and didn't know he was half-black until she met his mother. She runs off because of the revelation.
  • Boomerang Bigot: "Driscoll had developed a ferocious hatred for the black race, from which he was born."
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  • Deleted Scene: In-Universe. The surviving print is incomplete, and comes with a quote from a review attempting to describe the missing portion—which is, unfortunately, the climax of the film. So we never find out how Hugh defeated the bad guys and saved Eve and his land.
  • Domestic Abuse: August is emotionally and physically abusive towards his wife Mary.
  • Flashback: A flashback reveals why Jefferson conceals his race: he was dumped by his white girlfriend after she met his black mother.
  • Hiding Your Heritage:
    • Jefferson is a mixed-race man passing as white.
    • Eve is light-skinned and, as a result, Hugh didn't know she was black. He doesn't learn until the end of the film.
  • Hollywood Darkness: It's light out at midnight when Hugh goes riding back to save Eve—which is weird, since it's pitch-black at the same time that the Klansmen are riding. (The Klansmen have flares.)
  • The Klan: Barr and Tugi enlist the Ku Klux Klan to drive Eve off her land.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Jefferson does this in the normal way after throttling his mother, following his breakup with the white girl.
  • Pass Fail:
    • Jefferson passes as white, but his lover finally learns his heritage upon accidentally meeting his mother.
    • Jefferson notices that Eve is black because her eyes "betray her origins".
  • Race Film: The Symbol of the Unconquered is one of the oldest remaining race films.
  • A Saint Named Mary: August's wife Mary is described as an innocent victim of Domestic Abuse.
  • Time Skip: Two years pass before the ending when Hugh, now a rich oil baron, meets Eve again.