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"Take a Giant Step" and "A Raisin in the Sun" by Mark A. Reid

"The earliest black family films were produced by independent black producers who used African American writers for the scripts. These black writers used their own creative talents in write original screenplays, or they made film adaptations from black literary works. For example, the Frederick Douglass Film Company produced THE COLORED AMERICAN, OR WINNING HIS SUIT (1916) which was written by Rev. W.S. Smith, a black Baptist minister. THE COLORED AMERICAN resembled Lincoln family films because the film dealt with a black hero proving his worth, and the plot ends with him returning to his black family. In May 1917, the Frederick Douglass Company premiered a Paul Laurence Dunbar film adaptation of his short story, "The Scapegoat." The production of THE SCAPEGOAT pioneered film adaptations of African American literary works."

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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 | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it
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African American were also portrayed as over sexed, as in the 1915 film The Birth of a Nation by D.W Griffith. African Americans were willing to rape to ease their sexual desires. Black stereotypes appeared in other movies such as: Interrupted Crap Game, Prize Fight in Coon Town, and Chicken Thieves.

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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"). | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it
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Not all films of the 1900 portrayed African Americans as servants or over sexed and not all directors were European. Oscar Micheaux was an African American director who made 43 films.

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Harlem Renaissance: 1920s' African-American Cultural Revolution

Harlem Renaissance: 1920s' African-American Cultural Revolution | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it
The Harlem Renaissance, while primarily literary, involved art, music, dance, and theater. Blacks of the Harlem Renaissance used intellectual and artistic talents to challenge racial stereotypes and help promote integration.
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Black Stereotypes (new extended version)

The producers do not tolerate or support hatred or racism in any form. This film merely illustrates how blacks have been portrayed by filmmakers in the past....
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Clips of video from the 1920's through the 1940's depicting the view of African Americans in film.

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From Blackface to Blaxploitation: Representations of African Americans in Film - Duke Library Exhibits

From Blackface to Blaxploitation: Representations of African Americans in Film - Duke Library Exhibits | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

Alongside the pleas and demands from the African American community for greater socioeconomic inclusion and equality in the U.S. after the dedicated service of Blacks in World War II, subsections of Hollywood worked to reduce stereotypical representations of Blacks in film. Large productions featuring all-Black casts (such as Carmen Jones, 1954; St. Louis Blues, 1958; and Porgy and Bess, 1959) continued, and in step with the Civil Rights Movement, there was an increasing tendency to push against and challenge social segregation norms and racial views (as seen in The Defiant Ones, 1958).

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For All the World to See: Film and the Struggle for Civil Rights : A Raisin in the Sun, 1961

For All the World to See: Film and the Struggle for Civil Rights : A Raisin in the Sun, 1961 | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 drama A Raisin in the Sun was the first play by a black woman produced on Broadway. It was also the first play by an African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize. The title—taken from Langston Hughes’s poem “A Dream Deferred”—suggests the festering passions and resentments unleashed in its dialogue.

In the film version, the story centers on a working-class black family: the father, Walter Lee Younger (Sidney Poitier), a struggling chauffeur; his wife (Ruby Dee), a maid; his mother (Claudia MacNeil), who is about to retire from her work as a maid; and his sister (Diana Sands), who is on her way to medical school. The family lives in a crowded, dilapidated one-bedroom apartment in a Chicago tenement, a typical situation at the time for poor urban blacks, who were forced to pay exorbitant rents for insufficient, poorly maintained housing.

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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Movie Review (1968) | Roger Ebert

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Movie Review (1968) | Roger Ebert | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

"Of course, the negro is Sidney Poitier. He is a noble, rich, intelligent, handsome, ethical medical expert who serves on United Nations committees when he's not hurrying off to Africa, Asia, Switzerland and all those other places where his genius is required. During a vacation in Hawaii, he meets Katharine Houghton, and they fall in love and come home to break the news to her parents."

michael maynor's insight:

The film won an Academy awards. The film intentionally left out African American stereotypes so that the only objection to an African American man marrying a European Joanna would be his race, or the fact she only met him and married him so soon. Poitier debunks the African American male stereotype by playing an intelligent, highly internationally respected doctor. He is well mannered, handsome, well dressed, and of a respectable family.

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Shaft

Shaft | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it
Richard Roundtree cuts a startlingly new and powerful heroic figure as John Shaft, "the cat who won't cop out, when there's danger all about" in Gordon Parks' seminal action film, Shaft. John Shaft is ...
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The 1971 film Shaft, which was remade in 2000, was a groundbreaking film when the film came out. Not only did the film depict Richard Roundtree as a rough, tuff, and attractive black man. But up to that this time, the only leading African American men in Hollywood studio films had been meek, well-spoken personalities who would be acceptable to European audiences. John Shaft was a character who didn't care whether whites found him acceptable or not, as he was angry, proud, and fiercely sexual. But Shaft also displayed intelligence and street smarts that was unheard of by African American men up until this film.

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Pam Grier Biography

Pam Grier Biography | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

"Actress Pam Grier made her name starring in 1970s "blaxploitation" films— films geared towards African Americans, and based on stereotypes of urban black life. Playing prisoners, criminals, and prostitutes, Grier's most notable roles were in Coffy and Foxy Brown. Criticized for her blaxploitation roles, Grier experienced a career comeback as the title character in 1997's Jackie Brown."

michael maynor's insight:

The many blaxploitation films starring her as the leading actress deserve a column by itself to bring justice to Grier’s accomplishments to this genre. Grier's combination of sass, strong madness, and martial-arts skills had her taking lead roles in action films traditionally led by men. According to Grier "People had only seen African-American women depicted a certain way in film and it was about time that changed."

 

Grier became the first female action lead in Hill's 1973 hit Coffy, as a nurse out for revenge on drug dealers that she blames for getting her sister addicted to drugs. She became a pop icon and a year later played the title character in Foxy Brown. She was the kind of star the film industry hadn't seen before: ballsy, sexy and black. Other films that starred Pam Grier in the 1970's are "Greased Lighting", "Friday Foster" "Foxy Brown", "The Arena", "Black Mama, White Mama", "Scream Blacula Scream", "Women in Cages'", "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls", just to name a few.

 

 

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Spike Lee

Spike Lee | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

While African-American filmmakers have been a staple of the cinematic landscape since the pioneering work of Oscar Micheaux during the '20s, none have had the same cultural or artistic impact as Spike Lee. As a writer, director, actor, producer, author, and entrepreneur, Lee has revolutionized the role of black talent in Hollywood, tearing away decades of stereotypes and marginalized portrayals to establish a new arena for African-American voices to be heard. 

michael maynor's insight:

Spike Lee films deal with areas of the black experience that are original and controversial, even amongst African Americans. He does not want to show African Americans in ways that Europeans would accept, such as Poitier's roles often portrayed.

 

His first film, She's Gotta Have It, dealt with black sexuality, and the film seemed to support Nola Darling's immorality.

 

Spike Lee's next film, School Daze, which was based a lot on Lee's personal experiences at Morehouse College, was about the black university experience and the feelings of discrimination within the black community based on light skin and dark skin colors.

 

 

Next was Do the Right Thing which dealt with racial tensions and black on black violence.

 

Lee's fourth film, Mo' Better Blues, dealt with black jazz and its social setting in Brooklyn, New in 1969.

 

His fifth film, Jungle Fever, explored interracial sexual relationships and how politics play into the relationships. The film shows the original and controversial nature of Spike Lee by not taking the liberal position that love should be color blind.

 

His sixth film, Malcolm X, was more than a film about Malcolm X, the film represents the racial struggle in the United States. Spike Lee has directed many other films and continues to direct films.

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Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

"Though he made his big screen debut in "Who Says I Can't Ride a Rainbow?" (1971), Freeman was absent from movies for another nine years when he played a crazed inmate in the prison drama, "Brubaker" (1980), a role praised by famed New Yorkercritic Pauline Kael. While excelling on stage, Freeman languished in routine roles in mediocre movies, including "Teachers" (1985) and "MARIE: A True Story" (1985). But his first Oscar nominated performance in "Street Smart" permanently changed his fortunes. After getting a second Oscar nomination with his reprisal of Hoke Colburn in "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989), Freeman gave a standout performance in "Glory" (1989), the heart wrenching saga of the first unit of black soldiers to serve for the United States during the Civil War. He followed with a forgettable appearance as the sympathetic Judge White in "The Bonfire of the Vanities" (1990), before returning to form with a solid turn as the mysterious, but loyal Moor Azeem in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991). Already a venerable actor of considerable heft, Freeman had yet to reach his zenith."

michael maynor's insight:

Morgan Freeman has played in some of my favorite films and continues to play roles that shine as the leading character, or roles that out shine the leading characters played by other actors. Morgan Freeman fights the Hollywood stereotypes put on African American male roles by playing authority figures. In addition to portraying several detectives in murder mysteries, he played the Director of the CIA in The Sum of All Fears, the President of the United States in Deep Impact, and God in Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty. He played Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom, Malcolm X in Death of a Prophet, and Joe Clark in Lean On Me. Even as Jessica Tandy's chauffeur in Driving Miss Daisy or Tim Robbins's prison mentor in Shawshank Redemption, Freeman offered the voice of wisdom and seemed to take over the movie or add to the performances of the actors he was working with. Morgan Freeman was nominated and won several awards but not an Oscar to this day.

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Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

"For an actor who seemed so right playing strong, principled men in Malcolm X and Crimson Tide, it was ironic that Denzel Washington won his Best Actor Oscar for playing a corrupt cop in 2001's Training Day."

michael maynor's insight:

Denzel Washington won an Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Alonzo Harris; a corrupt detective with the L.A.P.D. Denzel does a masterful performance, as far as acting, worthy of an Oscar. However unlike Poitier who won an Oscar for portraying an acceptable black man, Washington won the Oscar for playing an African American male that fit into the stereotypes that Hollywood films have typically placed on the African American male. These are same stereotypes African Americans in film have tried to separate themselves from since the early days of film.  Has Hollywood started award films that play African Americans as angry, corrupt, and childlike "creatures" that cannot control their emotions?  

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From Blackface to Blaxploitation: Representations of African Americans in Film - Duke Library Exhibits

From Blackface to Blaxploitation: Representations of African Americans in Film - Duke Library Exhibits | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it
African Americans have had a long and rather complex history in the American motion picture industry. Early depictions of African American men and women were confined to demeaning stereotypical images of people of color.
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This scene from the 1900's shows one of the ways African Americans were portrayed in films of this time, as the servant or being subservient.

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American Experience . America 1900 . The Film & More | PBS

American Experience . America 1900 . The Film & More | PBS | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

"There was a vernacular of music called "coon songs" that was very popular around 1900. And they depicted African Americans as buffoons, oftentimes eating watermelon.

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African Americans were often looked on as a comical or people to be laughed at. African Americans were made to look dumb and ignorant. In these times African American people were mainly portrayed as European in "black face"

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SparkNotes: Gone with the Wind: Portrayal of Race Relations

SparkNotes: Gone with the Wind: Portrayal of Race Relations | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

 "Though freed from the novel’s positive portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan, Gone With the Wind’s depiction of slavery remains decidedly simplistic. Adopting historian U. B. Phillip’s “plantation school” view of the institution, the film shows slaves as well-treated, blindly cheerful “darkies” loyal to their benevolent masters." 

michael maynor's insight:

Although "Gone With the Wind" portrayed a more positive view of slavery. Many African Americans were portrayed as stupid and childlike. Mammy manages to escape the film with her dignity largely intact, but Pork, the only named male house slave, is forced to appear in scene after scene with a wide-eyed, slightly glazed expression on his face. When faced with work duties beyond those he has always performed, he immediately becomes overwhelmed and panics. Big Sam’s grammar is chopped down to an extremely simplistic level, far below even that of the equally uneducated Mammy. The worst example of this negative portrayal is the young house slave Prissy. Perhaps intended as comic relief, Prissy is stupid, squeamish, a liar, and becomes hysterical over the smallest things. She is a caricature of a woman, a living holdover from the slaveholder’s old claim that African Americans needed to be slaves because they weren’t able to function on their own. Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for her portrayal of Mammy, an African American servant.

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Movie Review - Stormy Weather - ' Stormy Weather,' Negro Musical With Bill Robinson, at the Roxy -- 'Hers to Hold' Opens at Criterion - NYTimes.com

Twentieth Century-Fox gave its new all-Negro musical revue, "Stormy Weather," co-starring the inimitable Bill Robinson and the sultry song-bird Lena Horne, a dual New York première yesterday at the Roxy Theatre, Seventh Avenue and Fiftieth Street, and at the Alhambra Theatre in Harlem, Seventh Avenue and 126th Street.

michael maynor's insight:

Although the film promotes the sing and dance stereotype of African Americans the film does bring to light the entertainment contributions of African Americans as Bill Williamson receives a magazine in his honor celebrating the contribution of the African Americans to the entertainment. This prompts him to reflect about his career and relationship to Selina Rogers who was played by Lena Horne. The film is a way to show the talent of African Americans in music and dance.

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Carmen Jones

Carmen Jones | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it
A sultry factory worker seduces a young soldier then dumps him for another man.
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In 1943 Oscar Hammerstein Jr. remade Georges Bizet's opera Carmen. A film was later made in 1954. George Bizet rewrote the lyrics and changed the characters from 19th century Spaniards to World War II-era African-Americans. He also changed the location to a Southern military base. Dorothy Dandridge stars as Carmen Jones, an employee of a parachute factory. Harry Belafonte plays Joe, who was originally called José, a young military officer engaged to be married. The film stars an all African American cast and presented African Americans as regular people similar to their European counterparts. "Carmen Jones" represents a step up from earlier Hollywood black musicals. The film has a female lead, although she is a stigmatized and sexualized black woman, is paired with a strong and virile leading black man that is a well-educated soldier. Joe is serious, handsome, and robust character that is a far cry from the comedians and tap dancers of earlier film.

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Julius Speaks: Best Black Film Actresses By Decade:1960s

Julius Speaks: Best Black Film Actresses By Decade:1960s | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

The 1960s saw an explosion of Black female faces on the American cultural scene. The 1950s had introduced the American public to the Black leading lady in the person of Dorothy Dandridge. .

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Lilies of the Field (1963)

Lilies of the Field (1963) | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it
Director: Ralph Nelson
Writers: William Edmund Garrett (novel) and James Poe (screenplay)
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Theme Song: “Amen” composed by Jester Harrison
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Main Cast:
• Sidney...
michael maynor's insight:

Sidney Poitier won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Homer Smith. Homer is a handyman who stops for water along a dusty desert road and winds up building a church. The film deals with racism in a subtle way. The film carries none of the anger against African Americans that occurred during the 1960's. The way Homer responded in the situations he was placed in hard for a man of any color. When one white man does call him a boy Homer does it right back to him, with no animosity but just as any man might to his equal who had insulted him.

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Column: 'Django' really about blaxploitation

Column: 'Django' really about blaxploitation | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

In the case of Quentin Tarantino's dark film about a runaway-slave-turned-bounty-hunter who will do anything to free his wife from slavery, the on-screen images produce a roller coaster ride of humor and gore. It's because of the off-screen politics of making such a movie, in a nation still unwilling to fully admit to the depth of its complicity with slavery and the resulting Jim Crow century, that Tarantino has created quite a stir.

michael maynor's insight:

Although not a 1970's black exploitation film, the 2013 film Django could be considered one of these films. The film is criticized for being done by a white director, so some critics say the film is not to be a true "black" film. Django. The film stays true to the black exploitation films of the 1970's by having a strong black leading character that stayed true to himself even against the "white man".

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'Blacula' (1972), Blaxploitation at Its Best and Worst with Disco and Dracula!

"The African prince, Manuwalde (Marshall), and his wife, Luva (McGee), visit Dracula (Macauley) at Castle Dracula in Transylvania in 1780 to discuss a treaty and slavery. Everything goes well until Dracula says that he wants to continue slavery and Manuwalde wants to end it. Dracula wants to turn Manuwalde into a vampire to serve his needs but Manuwalde resists and Dracula curses him to become the vampire, Blacula, and imprisons him in a coffin to starve for blood. Dracula also imprisons Luva in the tomb beside her husband to die."

michael maynor's insight:

Blacula was the most successful blaxploitation film of the horror genre. African Prince Mamuwalde was played by Shakespearean-trained actor William Marshall and William Crain directed the film. Although the film gave a good light to the talent of African Americans and was just about an all back cast, some of the things spoken about the gay characters is unnecessary. This reveals a weakness in the film, as the film portrays African Americans in a good light, yet at the same time coming off hateful towards homosexuals.

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Django Wasn't the First, But Tarantino Needs to Be the Last

Django Wasn't the First, But Tarantino Needs to Be the Last | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

"I will give Spike Lee his props. I will give John Singleton his respect. But directors such as Tyler Perry and many others who continue to profit from such slander and stereotype of the black population should be held responsible for such backlash that comes from Django. For it was within this power, that you abused it and made it profitable. And through your profit you made it acceptable. Enough is enough. Black directors, step your game up."

michael maynor's insight:

The 1980's and 1990's produced a lot of groundbreaking films with African Americans playing leading roles as well as directing. For instance the Spike Lee lead the way for African American films in the 1980's and continues paving the way till this day, along with John Singleton. John Singleton was the groundbreaking African American film director of the 1990's along with Spike Lee.

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John Singleton - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Singleton - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Daniel Singleton (born January 6, 1968) is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. A native of South Los Angeles, many of his early films consider the implications of inner-city violence like the critically acclaimed and popular Boyz n the Hood , Poetic Justice , Higher Learning and .

michael maynor's insight:

John Singleton became the youngest person and the first African American  to be nominated for a Best Director Academy Award, at the age of 24. He made movie history with Boyz 'N the Hood in 1991.

 

Boyz 'N the Hood reflect life and death in South Central L.A. that reflected his own experiences. The film is a drama about the life of 17-year-old Tre's efforts to make it out of his neighborhood. The film features a strong African American cast that includes Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, and Laurence Fishburne, and included the violence of South Central L.A. at a human level rather than the impersonal side of the violence. The film is one of the highest-grossing films in history to have been directed by an African American.

 

Singleton's next film was Poetic Justice released in 1993. The film stars Janet Jackson as Justice, a South Central L.A. hairdresser try to handle the shooting death of her boyfriend. The film also stars Tupac Shakur as Jackson's love interest, Lucky.

 

The director's next film, Higher Learning released in 1995, was a drama about race, gender, and political conflict on a college campus. The film stars include Omar Epps, Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, and Kristy Swanson.

 

His next film Rosewood, which I think is right up there with Boyz 'N the Hood, was released in 1997. The film is a drama based on the real-life 1923 massacre and destruction of an African-American town in Florida by Eupropeans from a neighboring community. The film stars Ving Rhames, John Voight, and Don Cheadle. 

 

The films by not only Singleton but Spike Lee as well, were not only monumental films for African American directors. The films also launched the careers of many African American actors. These are just a few of John Singleton's films and he continues or direct.

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Glory - Movie Review and Sounds

Glory - Movie Review and Sounds | African Americans in Films and TV | Scoop.it

"The story is largely seen through the eyes of Robert Gould Shaw, the young commanding officer of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment.  The Fifty-fourth was the first black regular army regiment in the Civil War."

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Released in 1989, Glory directed by Edward Zwick and starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes and Morgan Freeman, the film won Denzel Washington his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The film showed the proud and fearless nature of African Americans, who would fight and die to defend their freedom and to keep the country united.

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