JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — How many times have you driven down Arlington Road and looked at a large white building, wondering "What is Norman Labs?"
"People still don't know who we are," said Rita Reagan.
Reagan is Executive Director of Norman Studios.
"It's the only remaining one of Jacksonville's 30 studios that were here," she said.
When you review its history, Norman Studios became a bright light in a film industry with a dark side.
"When 'Birth of a Nation' came out, it was so egregiously racist," said Reagan.
In 1920 Richard Norman, a white filmmaker, bought the complex and began making silent "race films" with an all-black cast for an all-black audience.
"The concept was that it would help African Americans to rise up and fight back against the stereotypes of that period," she said.
Among his work is "The Flying Ace," inspired by Bessie Coleman, a black female aviator. She didn't see the film because she died in an accident.
"The reason why we are a National Historic Landmark is we are considered an early part of the Civil Rights Movement," said Reagan.
Restoration of the studio has been a slow and lengthy process.
The process began in 1993. Eight years later, the complex was purchased and in 2008 the restoration of the building's exterior was completed.
This year, Mayor Lenny Curry has set aside $1 million in his new budget to renovate Norman Studios.
Reagan is excited.
"If the council appropriates the money, the million dollars will be spent to complete this building," she said.
Once fully restored, Norman Studios will become a museum opened to the public. For now, visits are limited.
"We have historical artifacts," she said. "Things he actually used."
They are preparing for when the funds are approved.
Money that will help preserve a legacy that contributed to culture and to an industry that once called Jacksonville the "Winter Film Capital of the World."