Arts and Entertainment


How did early filmmakers depict blacks in films?

Since 1896 blacks have been involved in films, beginning with the short Watermelon Contest; however, these films depicted stereotypical images of blacks in American society. When D. W. Griffith’s controversial film The Birth of a Nation was produced in 1915, it bolstered the highly stereotypical black image and spurred blacks to produce “race movies” or those that bolstered the black image. Black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux (1884–1951) became one of the film industry’s most successful black filmmakers of that era, producing films such as Within Our Gates in 1920, Body and Soul in 1925, and Swing in 1935. Race movies declined by the late 1940s due to Hollywood’s lessening of aggressively racist portrayals of blacks in films, the use of black actors in the Hollywood system, and the move toward postwar racial desegregation.


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