Spring 2008

The Changing Images of Blacks in Film

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-18  |  English, as ENGL-93  |  Theater and Dance, as THDA-27


Manuame Mukasa (Section 01)


(Also Black Studies 18 and English 93.) Images in film reflect our culture. We can learn a great deal about the social dynamics, power struggles, truths and manipulations in American culture by examining the changing images in film over time. Arguably the most important social dynamic in our country's history has been that of race relations, something seen most poignantly in the context of Black and White. By examining the changing images of Blacks in film, we can see that film is not a neutral reflection of "reality" but a way to represent and shape social reality to the advantage or disadvantage of those seeking social control and social liberation. As we survey films from history to our present, we will look at how images tell stories, how they need to be seen in context, and how dramatic structures reflect social constructs. In this class our journey will take us from the disturbing celebration of the Ku Klux Klan in D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, still considered by many to be one of our most important films, to the struggle of Black actors to move past Mammies and coons, from brave early attempts at independent Black filmmaking to the popularity and paradoxes of Blaxploitation; from "Super Sidney Poitier" to our modern era of Black characters reflecting hope and ambiguity. Examining the changing images of Blacks in film provides a fascinating look at the pain and promise of our attempts to use film to define and redefine ourselves as a nation. Limited to 30 students. Second semester. Professor Mukasa.