Importance of African-American films and directors

Film has been transforming the perspectives of people for years.

Movies eventually moved into promoting civil rights movements such as equal rights for all races. These films changed the hearts of commonly racist people across America; specifically, the lives of African-Americans have been impacted by positive black characters in film and television over the years.

The 70’s television show, “The Jeffersons,” changed the idea of what a wholesome nuclear American family could be: a black family in New York.

Even the lovable charisma of Will Smith’s  character on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (based on the real-life story of Benny Medina) impacted the families of American households.

Alan Parker’s 1988 crime-thriller movie, “The Mississippi Burning” gave life to untold truths of the frustrating injustices African-Americans endured for years in the fight for civil equality.

All of these films and television shows were created by prolific African-American directors who wanted to make an impact in entertainment, and more importantly, in society.

In recent years, black directors such as Ryan Coogler, Barry Jenkins, Denzel Washington and even the Steve McQueen from England created films strongly centered on the struggles of the African-American experience. Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” (2013) told the story of Oscar Grant, a Californian black man who was fatally shot at the Oakland train station on New Year’s Day in 2009.

Not only was he murdered in cold blood but was shot unjustly by an officer while he was being detained on a public street. “Fruitvale Station” puts an emphasis on understanding the national problem of police brutality against blacks as a serious topic.

Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” (2016) explores the topic of homosexuality in the black community, a commonly avoided topic in black cinema, while Steve McQueen’s 2013 historical film “12 Years a Slave” chronicles the life of a free black man named Solomon Northup in 1841. Northup was kidnapped and sold into slavery while he was a violinist in New York.

Washington’s movie adaptation of the well-known play “Fences” by August Wilson has quickly caught success in theaters. “Fences” portrays the impact racial discrimination had in major league baseball and specifically its effect on the main character and his family.

Although African-American History Month was last month, it is important to continually recognize the individual success of the stand-out black public figures and the impact the culture has on the families of America.

Through movies and television, black families have been models of success for families across America. There is no better way to understand culture than through music and movies.  


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One thought on “Importance of African-American films and directors

  1. This was such a touching yet, “in your face” article. Many people wanted to know what was the “big deal ” about last year’s and this year’s Oscar Awards in relationship to African American culture. Well in just a few words your article “hits home “! Many people simply recall “The Cosby Show” (despite the troublesome time Bill Cosby is currently going through) as if it is the only positive portrayal of positve African American lifestyle.
    Great programming it was, however; it is not the beginning and end of a positve image of an African American family. This causes me to think back to Diane Carroll in “Julia” and even Eartha Kitt as “Cat Woman”. Thus I truely enjoyed this article!


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