The Sport of the Gods
Vintage Black Cinema
Issue Date: July 16, 2008
City: Newark, NJ
Released in 1921, “The Sport of the Gods” was based on a novel by author Paul Lawrence Dunbar. The film and novel are about a former white plantation owner, named Maurice Oakley, living in the South during Reconstruction. Having difficulty adapting to the new society, he hires Berry and Fannie Hamilton to work as his black servants. Over time, Berry saves up a large amount of money. However, when Maurice’s brother finds some of his money missing, he suspects Berry at once and has him put into prison. The rest of Berry’s family then moves to the North, where his wife remarries. The family is faced with many hardships and quickly falls apart.
One critic described the movie as “a stirring melodrama of the underworld that exposes in a dramatic manner the methods and lives of the underworld’s most sinister characters.” After its release, both the film and Dunbar’s novel received critical acclaim for their realistic portrayal of the dilemmas the characters encountered throughout the story. “The Sport of the Gods” is a dramatic retelling of the state of America following the Civil War.
“The Sport of the Gods” was honored on a 2008 U.S. postage stamp in a set of five stamps commemorating Vintage Black Cinema.