A Century of African Americans in Film in the Library pt.3 1960s to 1970s

In the 1960’s Hollywood responded to the Civil Rights Movement with a series of social conflict films starring African American performers. But the same ten years could also be called “The Poitier Decade” as actor Sidney Poitier gave one unforgettable performance after another. See his Academy Award winning work in “Lilies of the Field.”(1963)  Other Poitier films in the library collection include:

A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
A Patch of Blue (1965)
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
To Sir, with Love (1967)

The 1970’s brings some of the first films to portray African American History including the acclaimed “Sounder” (1972), “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1973) and “Roots” (1977).

Other films from the 1970’s in the library collection include:

Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
Cornbread, Earl and Me (1974)
Lost in the Stars (1974)
Uptown Saturday Night (1974)
Cooley High (1975)
Killer of Sheep (1977)
Freeman (1977)

In the early 1970’s a series of urban, low-budget, high action (and highly successful) films appeared starring black actors. African American political leaders felt these films were demeaning and exploitative and so they referred to them as “Blaxploitation films.” Hear what participants such as Pam Grier, Melvin Van Peebles, Gloria Hendry, Richard Roundtree and Fred Williamson had to say 30 years later in the documentary “BaadAsssss Cinema: a bold look at 70’s blaxploitation films” (2002) and see a horror film from the genre “Ganja & Hess” (1973).


    Cicely Tyson , actress, Roots, Sounder, born in New York City

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