Blacks in American Cinema
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Blacks in American Cinema
From blackface to darkies to simply being Black in prewar and postwar American cinema.
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Earning the Big Bucks

Earning the Big Bucks | Blacks in American Cinema | Scoop.it
African Americans in Hollywood Making Big Bucks It’s quite obvious how African American actors have taken a prominent place in mainstream Hollywood movies over the recent decade.
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Today, the presence of Black actors in Hollywood has tremendously increased since their false debut pre-1940s with Blackface. Some African-American actors have earned immense recognition and the love from America for their talents. However, top billing African-American actors are predominantly males so the stride for complete equality both between races and sexes is not entirely finished.  This article includes a list of the highest-earning Black actors as of 2012. This is proof enough that the 1950's and 1960's are far gone, but of course never forgotten.  

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Million Dollar Club

Million Dollar Club | Blacks in American Cinema | Scoop.it
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Eddie Murphy becomes the first actor to earn $1 million dollars for a film debut for his 1982 film 48 Hours. By the 1980's, visible progression can be seen for the Black community in Hollywood. While Hollywood still heavily enjoyed using certain characteristics of Blaxsploitation, Blacks began to be cast in less controversial and demeaning roles. 

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Back to Racism with Blaxsploitation!

Back to Racism with Blaxsploitation! | Blacks in American Cinema | Scoop.it
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The "blaxsploitation" film genre is kicked off in 1971 with the release of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and Shaft. Both films had significant commercial success which encouraged Hollywood to continue using the urban Black market for financial gain.  These films were often poorly made and extremely exaggerated representations of stereotypical urban life. Drug use, racial slurs, sexualized women, and extreme violence are only a few distinct characteristics of blaxsploitation films. While prewar American cinema attempted to hide Blacks, this 1970's fad glorified Blacks in a negative image in order to gain profit. 

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Hattie McDaniel winning Best Supporting Actress

Fay Bainter presenting Hattie McDaniel with the Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in "Gone With The Wind" at the 12th Academy Awards® in...
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In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first Black actor ever to be invited to the Academy Awards, nominated, and awarded for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. McDaniel won for her role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind (1939). 

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Within Our Gates (1920)

An excerpt from Oscar Micheaux's marvelous film Within Our Gates.
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To counter D.W. Griffith's falsely glorified story of the KKK in The Birth of A Nation, Micheaux released Within Our Gates to expose and uncover all the lies told by both Black AND White men. A brave venture indeed - Micheaux earned recognition for making one of the most scandolous and provocative films of all time. In this scene, Micheaux shows how African-Americans were often brown-nosers to their White acquaintances in hopes of gaining approval and equity. Black men especially prescribed themselves as the typical dopey good-hearted and respectful Negro that Hollywood adored.  Micheaux recognized that brown-nosing did not make one a man, but adamantly standing one's ground and expressing one's true beliefs did. 

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KKK is Here to Save the Day!

KKK is Here to Save the Day! | Blacks in American Cinema | Scoop.it
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The blockbuster film that depicted the South's "Lost Cause" through the White man's eyes. The extremely racially charged Birth of a Nation changed the film industry forever.

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The Help: Stereotypes of Black Women in Early Film and Television

From the 1860s to the 1960s one of the few employment opportunities for black women in America was as a domestic servant. Consequently, the Mammy stereotype ...
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To mirror the political and social culture of the late 19th and 20th centuries, Blacks were cast in demeaning, subservient roles. The popular prototype for African-American females was "Mammy," a Black maid who cooked, cleaned, and cared for the White family.  Mammy was typically a very benevolent and unintelligent character often using incorrect grammar and admitting to ignorance. Hattie McDaniel is the quintessential "Mammy" in the 1939 film Gone With the Wind as she famously tells Scarlett to eat her dinner here: "Yes'm you is, you's gonna eat every mouthful of this." 

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PORTRAYAL OF MINORITIES IN THE FILM, MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRIES

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This academic insight provides a detailed yet succinct account of Blacks journey through film in America. The authors begin chronologically with Blacks "debut" into the film industry with the controversial Blackface. Because Blacks were not included as actors in early cinema, White actors portrayed Black characters with an astonishingly dark (literally black) painted face leaving only the deeply contrasted white eyes and big, pink lips as other distinguishing features.  The research follows with the introduction of Sam Lucas as the first Black actor to star in a film. Lucas played Uncle Tom in Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1914. Although this film was extremely racial (based on Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel), Lucas's lead role was a significant event in Black film history. The strong political and social culture of the early 1900's is evident in the films being produced subsequently. Moving into the mid-1900's, films progress from using blackface to casting Black actors as the stereotypical "darkie" role.  The typical 'darkie' was the not-skilled-or-smart, yet good-hearted "nigger."  Although Blacks are getting cast in various films, the role was often unchanging. This source is an excellent starting point for a closer look at Blacks in American cinema.

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Getting to Know Black Directors

Getting to Know Black Directors | Blacks in American Cinema | Scoop.it
While a person's race certainly has no correlation with the quality of the films they make, it unfortunately does affect the amount of opportunity they receive in Hollywood to make films.
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Today, black directors have earned their spot on the red carpet. Some of the more successful Black directors are listed here. Spike Lee has been nominated for two Oscars and Golden Globes. He has also won an emmy and various international film festival awards. In 1991, John Singleton earned an Oscar nod for Best Director for his film Boyz N The Hood. Other notable African-American directors are Denzel Washington (directed a film nominated for Best Picture), Michael Schultz, Albert Hughes, and Steve McQueen. Another noteworthy producer/director is Tyler Perry who recently confirmed his place as the richest African-American in Hollywood with a net worth of $350 million dollars.  All of these directors have demonstrated their dedication and skill in the film industry. Each of them have definitely sent Hollywood the message that Blacks are here to stay and furthermore, here to progress.

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Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song Trailer

The official trailer for the film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. Written and directed by Melvin Van Peebles. For more information visit http://www.xenon...
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The 1971 release that kicked off Blaxsploitatin film genre. Notice the explicit rebellion against the White police, the violence, the over-exaggerated mannerisms, and the sexualized women--all of these are apparent throughout this entire trailer!

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Post Mortem - Lena Horne, Electrifying Singer, Dies

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In 1942, Lena Horne became the first Black actor to sign a contract with a major Hollywood studio (MGM, 7-year contract).  She is one of the most revered African-American actresses for her outstanding contributions to bettering race relation issues in Hollywood. Early in her career, her musical numbers were often left out from viewing in the Segregated South. However, Horne eventually overcame her early obstacles with her one-woman broadway show in 1981. She remembers her success as freeing in that she was no longer a symbol for all Blacks in Hollywood. She was her very own Lena Horne. This article also includes videos of two of her early works. 

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All-Black Casts in Hollywood

All-Black Casts in Hollywood | Blacks in American Cinema | Scoop.it
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Hallelujah (1929) and Hearts in Dixie (1929) were the first two Hollywood productions to have all-Black casts.  Hallelujah was King Vidor's first "talkie" film.  Hearts in Dixie introduced Stepin Fetchit into Hollywood as America's first African-American "movie star."

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A Journal for MultiMedia History article on Oscar Micheaux's film, WITHIN OUR GATES").

A Journal for MultiMedia History article on Oscar Micheaux's film, WITHIN OUR GATES"). | Blacks in American Cinema | Scoop.it
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Oscar Micheaux became one of the most successful and influential Black directors during the mid to late-1900's. His films challenged the racial prejudices of the South by approaching true, but controversial topics using a well-groomed multiracial cast. Although much of Micheaux's success is found in film, he began as a novelist. Lincoln Motion Picture Company, a Black-owned production company, expressed interested in transforming Micheaux's early novel The Homesteader into a production. Micheaux however denied the offer and thus, The Micheaux Film and Book Company was founded. While other Black filmmakers were attempting to break the stereotypes of Black men shown in Hollywood by exaggerating near perfect qualities for Black men in their films, Micheaux went his own route. Micheaux attempted to show Black men of the country what qualities were needed to become a successful Black man. He did not over compensate for Black men's negative qualities, but celebrated them in hopes to prompt Black men to question their own virtues, values, practices, and beliefs. 

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Culture Shock: Flashpoints: Theater, Film, and Video: D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation

Culture Shock: Flashpoints: Theater, Film, and Video: D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation | Blacks in American Cinema | Scoop.it
Kandis's insight:

Following D.W. Griffith's appalling yet groundbreaking film The Birth of a Nation was the birth of African-American "race films." Birth of a Nation depicted the Ku Klux Klan as the saviour for the South's "Lost Cause" during the Civil War. Griffith's use of blackface and animalization is blatantly racist, but also indicative of the White man's perspective at that time. African-Americans were outraged with their inaccurate depiction and although unsuccessful, the NAACP made efforts to ban the film. Noble Johnson became president of the first African-American film company - Lincoln Motion Picture Company. Race films were known for portraying respectable, dignified Black people in a more positive light. The Realization of a Negro 5 Ambition produced by Lincoln Motion Picture Company was the first film produced in America that did not cast Black actors in stereotypical roles. Another popular Black-owned "race film" company was Micheaux Film Corporation. Although Lincoln Motion Picture Company was not very successful, Micheaux created over 35 films from 1919 until 1940. His films addressed many race issues, but some had more notoreity such as Jim Crow laws, assimilation, and the meaning of race.

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Mammy - Al Jolson (Jazz Singer performance)

The fantastic Al Jolson performing his signature tune 'Mammy' in the finale of the 1927 film 'The Jazz Singer' and yes, it's in blackface! Great performance....
Kandis's insight:

Al Jolson was one of the most well-known actors to do blackface. This video shows his performance in blackface of "Mammy" in the 1927 film The Jazz Singer.  

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