Sermons and Sacred Pictures: The Life and Work of Reverend L.O. Taylor

SERMONS AND SACRED PICTURES profiles Reverend L.O. Taylor, a Memphis-based Baptist minister who in the 1930s and 40s built a fiery reputation by lacing his sermons with parables, fables and dramatic visual descriptions.

Taylor was also an inspired photographer and filmmaker with a keen interest in preserving a visual and aural record of the fabric of black American life. He photographed and filmed businesses and schools, the National Baptist Convention, baptisms, funerals, and individuals in the quiet dignity of their everyday lives. Over the years he compiled an extraordinary record of Southern black life before the Civil Rights movement.

This film is an innovative combination of Taylor's films and audio recordings, images of contemporary Memphis, and commentary by his widow and others who knew him, forming an intertwined narrative about the pioneering documentarian and social activist. Taylor emerges as a man of humor, piety and intelligence, vibrantly involved in the community he loved.

"Recommended! Fascinating! Provide[s] a link to an important piece of African American history and life."—Educational Media Reviews Online

"A dramatic portrait that will be especially useful for teachers and students interested in the black experience and the American South."—Professor William Ferris, Director of the Center for Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, Co-Editor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture

"Has a magical quality... It brings to life the work of Rev. Taylor [and] affirms African-American identity and spirit."—Elaine Charnov, Director of the Margaret Mead Film Festival

"The highlight of the Margaret Mead Film Festival."—J. Hoberman, Village Voice

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A film by Lynne Sachs
In association with the Center for Southern Folklore

Select Accolades

  • 1991 Honoree, American Anthropological Association
  • 1990 Award Winner, National Education Film Festival
  • 1990 Honoree, Black Cultural Expo (Memphis)
  • Best Short Documentary, 1990 Athens Film Festival (Ohio)
  • Best Documentary, 1990 Sinking Creek Film Festival
  • 1990 Margaret Mead Film Festival
  • 1990 Robert Flaherty Film Seminar


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