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African American Film Research Papers

African American Film research paper due and don’t know how to start it? How about like this?

African Americans have been involved in Hollywood film in some form since its inception in the early 20th century.  However, these early motion pictures showed blacks in an unfavorable light.  In the past one hundred years, the images of African Americans in film have changed dramatically, as racist stereotypes gave way to a new black identity and mainstream acceptance. African American FilmPaper Masters suggests the following topics on African American films:

  • Overview an example of one of the first examples of a poor portrayal of African Americans in film
  • Overview an example of one of the first examples of a good portrayal of African Americans in film
  • Who are top directors of early African American films?
  • What African American films have had the greatest influence in Hollywood

One of the earliest motion pictures to present African Americans in a wholly racist way was D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent epic The Birth of a Nation.  “In terms of advancement of the medium, it must be regarded as one of the most significant films ever made”.  However, the film shows African Americans in the most racist light.  Reconstruction-era blacks are depicted as arrogant, lusty drunkards.  African Americans continued to promote the dominant racial stereotypes of the day, “appearing as chicken thieves, venial preachers and the like”.  These white Southern stereotypes were continued throughout Hollywood films through 1939’s Gone With the Wind, with Hattie McDanial’s portrayal of the maid Mammy.

The Civil Rights and African American Film

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s led to the “blaxploitation” genre of the 1970s, in such films as Shaft or Superfly, in which the black hero became an urban outlaw.  These new images were perhaps as damaging to the image of blacks in popular culture as those of the early racial stereotypes.


Glory, an African American Film

However, the 1989 film Glory is important in two reasons for its depiction of African Americans.  First, it chronicles the 54th Massachusetts, the first all-black Civil War regiment.  The struggles that these men had in gaining the respect of white citizens and soldiers, and simply being allowed to fight in a conflict that was determining their fate, puts an end to the racial stereotypes of the period that Birth of a Nation implanted in American minds decades before.  These African Americans are strong and disciplined in the face of racial prejudice.

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