This is a fascinating bit of history, courtesy of the Library of Congress:
More context, via the LOC blog:
The Lincoln Motion Picture Company made five feature films and two newsreels from 1916 to 1922. To date, all have been considered lost, apart from four surviving minutes of their last feature, "By Right of Birth" (1921), archived at the Library of Congress, much of which is severely deteriorated due to nitrate decomposition. While the fragments are somewhat narratively incoherent, this material is nonetheless invaluable as a rare surviving example of early race filmmaking and the only representation of Noble Johnson—the star of the company—in a Lincoln production.
However, it was that glimpse of Noble Johnson that led us to conclude the "By Right of Birth" fragment contains within it a fifteen second clip from another film called "The Trooper of Troop K" (1916), making it the earliest surviving footage produced by a Black film company. This is the story of how I made that discovery with Ally's help, and how it requires a rewriting of Black film historiography.
As for why all that earlier (pre-1916) Black movie footage disappeared? I can garner a few guesses.
Looking (and Looking Again) at Black Film History [Cary O'Dell / Library of Congress]