Joe Mullarkey

Native Americans and American Film: 100 Years

No better introduction to this topic exists than Cree-descended Neil Diamond‘s 2009 documentary Reel Injun: On the Trial of the Hollywood Indian.

Many films have portrayed Native and First Nations peoples but few have been written from their perspective or performed by Native-born performers. An early exception to this is The Silent Enemy (1930) which features an all-Ojibway cast recreating nomadic tribal ways in a silent film. The enemy of the title is hunger.

Cecil B. DeMille made three film versions of The Squaw Man (1914, 1918, 1931) about a western rancher who marries a Native bride and faces social ostracization and prejudice. The library’s collection includes a DVD containing the 1914 original and the 1931 talking versions.

Native portrayals 1914-1970 (click on titles for location and availability)

The Squaw Man (1914)
Nanook of the North (1922)
The Silent Enemy (1930)
The Squaw Man (1931)
Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
Stagecoach (1939)
The Searchers (1956)
Walk the Proud Land (1956)
The Exiles (1961)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
End of the Trail (1965)
Little Big Man (1970)
A Man called Horse (1970)

A Century of African Americans in Film In the Library pt.5

The 21st Century has brought an array of African American stories, storytellers and performances on film. Click on the titles below for location and availability:

Ali (2001)
Monster’s Ball (2001) –Academy Award for Halle Berry
Training Day  (2001)–Academy Award for Denzel Washington
Antwone Fisher (2002)
The Rosa Parks Story (2002)
Warming by the Devil’s Fire (2003)
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Man on Fire (2004)
Crash (2005)–Academy Award for Best Motion Picture

Dreamgirls (2006) –Academy Award for Jennifer Hudson and Achievement in Sound Mixing
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
When the Levees Broke (2006)– 3 Emmy Awards for Direction, Editing & Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking
Relative Stranger  (2008)
Passing Strange (2009)
I Am Legend (2007)
For Colored Girls (2010)
The Help (2011) –Academy Award for Octavia Spencer
More Than a Month  (2011)
Undefeated (2011) –Academy Award for Best Documentary
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (2012)
12 Years a Slave (2013) –3 Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture, Lupita Nyong’o and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay
Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)


Films about African Americans in Film

The Films of Spike Lee (1997)
Small Steps, Big Strides (1998)
It’s Black Entertainment! (2001)
BaadAsssss Cinema: a bold look at 70’s blaxploitation films (2002)
That’s Black Entertainment (2002)

Books about African Americans in Film

African Americans and the Oscar : Seven Decades of Struggle and Achievement (2003)
Black Lenses, Black Voices : African American Film Now (2005)
Black Manhood on the Silent Screen / Gerald R. Butters, Jr (2002)
Spike Lee’s America / David Sterritt  (2013)

A Century of African Americans in Film in the Library pt.4 the 1980’s to the 1990’s

These two decades brought fame to a new a new group of directors including Maya Angelou, Charles Burnett, Julie Dash and  Spike Lee as well as a new generation of performers in film including Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker and Alfre Woodard among others.

Fame  (1980)
48 HRS (1982)
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (1982)
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Brother From Another Planet (1984)
Purple Rain (1984)
The Color Purple (1985)
Cry Freedom (1987)
Bird (1988)
Glory (1989)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
The Long Walk Home (1989)


Ghost (1990)    –Academy Award for Whoopi Goldberg
Daughters of the Dust (1991)
Boyz n the Hood (1991)
The Five Heartbeats (1991)
Mississippi Masala (1991)
Malcolm X (1992)
Passion Fish (1992)
Unforgiven (1992)
What’s Love Got To Do With It? (1993)
The Glass Shield (1994)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)
Othello (1995)
The Piano Lesson (1995)
To Sir, with Love II (1996 TV)
4 Little Girls (1997)
Amistad (1997)
Down in the Delta (1998)
The Green Mile (1999)
Instinct (1999)
Life (1999)
Selma Lord Selma  (1999)


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

The Diary of Anne Frank: See the Play, Read the Book

The Diary of Anne Frank has not been out of print in English since its publication in 1952. This book was carefully edited by Anne’s father Otto Frank and published in Dutch in 1947.

The book so many of us have read over these years is a combination of all the written pages Miep Gies was able to preserve and give to Otto Frank upon his return to Amsterdam. In 1944, Anne began to edit and revise her journal entries from June of 1942 (roughly 16 months worth). The Diary of Anne Frank The Revised Critical Edition allows us to read her development as a writer through those two drafts and then see how carefully her father wove the versions together to make the book that has touched two generations of readers.

The Diary of Anne Frank

By Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett
Adapted by Wendy Kesselman

Feb. 21-March 2
Friday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m./Sunday at 3 p.m.

John and Angeline Oremus Theater


Other notable memoirs of the European Holocaust in the library collection include:

I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1942-1945 / Victor Klemperer
Letters from Westerbork / Etty Hillesum
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale / Art Spiegelman
Night / Elie Wiesel

Night; Dawn; Day / by Elie Wiesel

A Century of African Americans in Film in the Library

Part 2: the 1920’s to the 1940’s

From the 1920’s to the 1940’s some 200 films were produced with all-black casts for African American audiences by such studios as Meteor Productions Inc., Lincoln Motion Picture Co., Norman Film Manufacturing Co., Monarch Productions, Christie Film Co. and Micheaux Pictures Corp. Hollywood took notice and began to recruit stars of the musical stage including Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, Nina Mae McKinney, Fats Waller and Ethel Waters.

In the library collection:

Within Our Gates (1920)
Hallelujah (1929)
The Emperor Jones (1933)
The Green Pastures (1936)
Swing (1938)
Moon Over Harlem (1939)
Way Down South (1939)
Cabin in the Sky (1943)
Stormy Weather (1943)

    Stormy Weather (O.S.T - 1943)

A Century of African Americans in Film in the Library

(Well OK, 94 years really) We start with the directors:

Oscar Micheaux’s silent protest film Within Our Gates (1920) and 1938 musical Swing!
Mr. Micheaux founded his own film studio in 1919 (in Chicago no less) and went on to produce, script and direct 44 films. Read more about this pioneering filmmaker at:

Sidney Poitier began directing films in the 1970’s including the 1974 comedy Uptown Saturday Night. Micheal Schulz’s Cooley High (1975) was filmed in Chicago.  Look for Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater founder Jackie Taylor in the cast.

Also: Oz Scott’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (1982), Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) Malcolm X (1992) 4 Little Girls (1997) When the Levees Broke (2006) and Passing Strange (2009) as well as The Films of Spike Lee (1997); Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991) and The Rosa Parks Story (2001); John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood and Robert Townsend’s The Five Heartbeats (both 1991); Charles Burnett’s The Glass Shield (1994) and Warming by the Devil’s Fire (2003); Maya Angelou’s Down in the Delta (1998),  Denzel Washington’s Antwone Fisher (2002), Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls (2010) and Ice Cube’s Something From Nothing (2012).




Remembering Shirley Temple (1928-2014)

The library has two of Ms. Temple’s films in the collection, “The Littlest Rebel” (1935) and “Heidi” (1937) as well as an A & E produced 1996 documentary from the Biography series, “Shirley Temple: Hollywood’s Little Princess.”


Temple meets the Brookfield Zoo’s panda in the late 1930’s

Chicago Daily Tribune 21 June 1938: 12.

Read up on Your Candidates

Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have both authored memoirs and books on their political philosophies. Several are currently on display in the library lounge and available for checkout.John McCain’s include:

Faith Of My Fathers

Hard Call: Great Decisions And The Extraordinary People Who Made Them

Worth the Fighting For: The Education of an American Maverick and the Heroes Who Inspired Him

He is also interviewed in the award-winning documentary Why We Fight

Barack Obama titles include:

The Audacity Of Hope: Thoughts On Reclaiming The American Dream

Dreams From My Father: A Story Of Race And Inheritance

Make your vote count in November!

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