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Black History Month: African Americans in Film

--Booklists General

“Moving pictures have become one of the greatest revitalizing forces in race adjustment.”

Oscar Micheaux, 1st major African American feature filmmaker (1884-1951)

As large numbers of African Americans migrated from the rural South to urban areas across the U.S. between the 1910s and 1940s, the racial landscape of America began to shift. As a result, mainstream Hollywood began to reflect this demographic change in its films. The growing momentum of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s and 60’s saw a shift in the way that Black and White actors/actresses shared the screen. Acting roles for African Americans began to multiply, but the roles they played reinforced society’s racial stereotypes and social statuses.

In modern day cinema, there’s been a call to hear Black voices that speak to the Black experience; people are calling for cast diversity and for better representation. Hollywood is starting to make strides to uplift African American voices and actors, though there is still much work to be done. The critical and public success of films such as Black Panther (2018) and Broadway musicals like Hamilton (2015) highlight how representation matters and that the film industry will benefit from diverse voices. To support Black actors/actresses’ and filmmakers’ works, check out some films: