The Gunsaulus Mystery is a 1921 silent race film directed, produced and written by Oscar Micheaux. The film was inspired by events and figures in the 1913-1915 trial of Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan.
The body of Myrtle Gunsaulus, a young African American girl, is discovered in the basement of a New York City factory. Arthur Gilpin, the African-American janitor who discovered the body, is arrested and charged with her murder.
Arthur’s sister Ida May (Evelyn Preer) contacts her former boyfriend, the attorney Sidney Wyeth (Lawrence Chenault), to defend Gilpin in court. During the trial, Wyeth redirects attention for the murder away from Gilpin to Anthony Brisbane, a white man with a history of sexual deviancy. Gilpin is exonerated while Brisbane is revealed as Myrtle Gunsaulus' killer.
Oscar Micheaux, the most prolific African-American filmmaker of the race film genre, had previously addressed the issue of violence by whites against blacks in his 1920 feature Within Our Gates, which aroused controversy. That film’s storyline, which included a portrayal of racial lynching and the sexual attack by a white man against a black woman, resulted in censorship rulings in Atlanta and