To study the rich history of black representation in film, Stacker created a timeline of some the most significant milestones in black contributions to the industry. Selections for the forthcoming gallery come from a myriad of books, articles, and archives. Entries include films about black, queer, Muslim teens falling in love, early horror stories intended to challenge racism long before contemporary classics like "Get Out," and various directors, screenwriters, and others who landed historic firsts in the awards circuit. There are also experimental documentaries, silent films, musicals, and groundbreaking LGbTQ+ films in the mix.
From the beginning, black films have been used to challenge stereotypes of race, tell great stories, and create laughs. There have been various eras within black film history that focused on social and political movements. "Race films," or "race movies" as a specific film classification came to be around 1915 as a means of combating the Jim Crow South and negative racist stereotypes in the early 1900s. Later, blaxploitation films were developed following victories of the civil rights movement. The genre was geared toward young black Americans and had many political undertones. As industry leaders driving the progress and development of black-inclusive film, black writers, directors, producers, musicians, cast, and crew have created award-winning movie scores, horror films, and comedies.
Many Hollywood films have historically caricatured the black experience. Today, even films that aren't overtly racist often perpetuate harmful stereotypes or tropes. However, black creatives and others have worked tirelessly to combat these views with their own work. This list celebrates various representations both in genre and accolades and contains a number of firsts, including the first black woman with a movie that earned $100 million at the box office.
If you’re seeking to learn some black history or add a new film to your watch list, this list is a great place to start.