Black Representation in Independent Cinema: From Civil Rights to Black Power

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film


After World War II, black independent film production waned as black political leaders advocated integration over cultural nationalism, placing utmost importance not on the creation of a viable alternative space for black film culture but rather on improving the level of black participation and the accuracy of black representation in Hollywood cinema. The coordinated actions of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other Civil Rights groups induced Hollywood to incorporate black actors, directors, producers and musicians such as Harry Belafonte and Quincy Jones into the industry, which weakened the pool of talent available for black independents (Cripps 1978, 48). Gladstone Yearwood notes that “as the Civil Rights movement made gains during the 1950s and early 1960s and increasing attention was given to bringing blacks into the mainstream film industry, the black independent film movement underwent a hiatus” (2000, 41).1 Some postwar black independent films, such as Pierre Chenal's Native Son (1951), starring and written by Richard Wright, and Anthony Harvey's Dutchman (1967), based on a screenplay by Amiri Baraka, were made outside of the United States and failed to garner the significant attention or support of domestic audiences (Cripps 1978, 47–48). Important black independent documentary filmmakers such as William Greaves and St. Clair Bourne did emerge during this period, but most documentaries about the Civil Rights and Black Power eras were made by white filmmakers, many of whom worked for radical newsreel organizations (Snead 1995, 372).

Book Publisher


Journal ISSN / Book ISBN


Book Editor(s)

Cynthia Lucia, Roy Grundmann, Art Simon

Published Citation

Lykidis, A. (2011). Black Representation in Independent Cinema. In The Wiley‐Blackwell History of American Film (eds C. Lucia, R. Grundmann and A. Simon). doi:10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf058