Noble Johnson was an African-American actor and film producer.
Standing 6'2" at 215 pounds, his impressive physique and handsome features made him in demand as a character actor and bit player. In the silent era he assayed a wide variety of characters of different races in a plethora of films, primarily serials, westerns and adventure movies. While Johnson was cast as black in many films, he also played Native American and Latino parts and "exotic" characters such as Arabians or even a devil in hell in Dante's Inferno.
The old orthochromatic film stock of the early days was less discriminating about a person's color, as were black and white stocks in general, permitting some African-American actors a break, as their "color" was washed out or less obvious when photographed in black and white. As late as the early 1960s, there were very few African-American members of the Screen Actors Guild. Since there was a lack of opportunity for them as black performers, they were confined mostly to race films until the 1960s.
Noble was great friends with fellow actor Lon Chaney. They were schoolmates in Colorado.
Johnson was also an entrepreneur. In 1916, he founded his own studio to produce what would be called "race films", movies made for the African-American audience, which was ignored by the "mainstream" film industry. The Lincoln Motion Picture Company, in existence until 1921, was an all-black company, and the first to produce movies portraying African-Americans as real people instead of as racist caricatures. Johnson, who served as president of the company and was its primary asset as a star actor, helped support the studio by acting in other companies' productions such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and investing his pay from those films in Lincoln.