March 2, 2018 - Vol. 1, Issue 22
Black Film After Black Panther
Above, the cast of Marvel Studios' Black Panther 11
Arthur Wellesley French
Robert Stull
Tanya-Monique Kersey
Two years after #OscarsSoWhite trended on Twitter, railing against Hollywood’s white washing and lack of minority representation at the 2016 Academy Awards, the potential for diversity’s commercial success is spotlighted in the film Black Panther . Featuring a black lead, a majority black cast, a black writer and a black director, the movie celebrates African heritage and African American culture and agency in breathtaking big-budget action style. 1

According to Forbes, to date--March 2, 2018--Marvel’s Black Panther film has grossed $800 million dollars worldwide 2 , breaking into the top 20 tier of the highest grossing films of all time in the United States. 3

The struggle for equality for African Americans actors in Hollywood has been ongoing, and change has been slow--particularly with respect to cinematic representation of the black experience, and the depiction of black males.

Nancy Wang Yuen in Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism notes of racism in Hollywood: “The practice of racializing people of color and normalizing whites is common in Hollywood. This mirrors U.S. society, in which racial and ethnic identities are largely optional and symbolic for whites but compulsory for people of color because of persistent racial labels and stereotypes.” 4

David L. Moody speaks to the predominantly white Hollywood’s stereotypical representation of the black male in The Complexity and Progression of Black Representation in Film and Television: “Consequently, Hollywood’s response to the black male experience in America resulted in the construct of black male super heroes portrayed as pimps, drug dealers, gangsters, and hyper-masculine male characters…thus, Hollywood planted a mendacious seed with audience members that depicted the black male as a feared predator pursuing potential payback against his tormentor.” 5 Ed Guerrero concurs, commenting in Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film , “Hollywood is a system entirely motivated by short-term profit. Because of this, the industry is conservative and changes only when forced to do so by the combined pressures of multiple influences…it is true that mainstream commercial cinema’s representation of African Americans changed significantly in response to these pressures, with older stereotypes and subordinations of black jettisoned in favor of more assertive and multidimensional black characters, as well as black-focused themes and narratives.” 6

In his interview, actor and director Arthur Wellesley French , reflects upon the reality of whitewashing in Hollywood and stereotypes of black Americans, “ I think what black people bring to it is what we have as our experience, of our lives, and what we’ve experienced as an individual and as people in genera. Very often we look on the screen and we see a movie or something with black people in them, and we know we’ve never seen anybody like that. We know we don’t know any black people that do or say things like that. So, I don’t know that there’s an overall aesthetic, except hopefully to represent black people as they are--good, bad, or indifferent. And we’re not being excluded. 7 [Arthur Wellesley French, THMDA 1.7.3].

Comic book artist Robert Stull read Black Panther comics as a child, and remembers resonating with the character: “When I was growing up, I kind of connected with the Black Panther, because he was a descendant of royalty. He was a king back in Africa, and he found his way to the States, and he always handled himself in a very regal and respectful manner. And I applaud Marvel Comics for taking a chance ‘cause they created him in the '60s in the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and to create a black character with that kind of rich background and history. I think that message is just as positive as black super heroes that have been created.” 8 [Robert Stull, THMDA 1.5.3].

Despite Black Panther ’s huge box office success, one wonders if inclusiveness in Hollywood can be expected going forward?

Publishing chief executive, former actress and founder of the Hollywood Black Film Festival, Tanya-Monique Kersey spoke in her interview to the limited agency of minorities in Hollywood: “We’re not part of the power structure of the business. As long as we don’t control the industry, we’re not a part of the power structure. Hollywood’s been around for fifty years. I mean, we’ve advanced as the times have changed, but where really are we? Why are we not getting together and forming our own? I think that’s what it’s gotta be.” [Tanya-Monique Kersey, THMDA 1.5.4] 9 Guerrero agrees, concluding: “African Americans must continue to expand their influence over the production, distribution, and exhibition systems that make up the dominant cinema apparatus, while insisting that the emergent narratives of the black world be rendered from an honest, unco-opted, liberated perspective.” 10

The HistoryMakers Archive in Action
The University of Richmond 11
At the University of Richmond in Virginia, classics professor Dr. Patrice Rankine has incorporated The HistoryMakers' database as a primary research resource in his first-year seminar course, "Classical Theater and the Modern City."
In the course, students read plays in the classical western traditional, such as Sophocles' Oedipus Rex , alongside works in the modern western tradition, including Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. To situate the plays in context, Rankine took students to see local performances; and he demonstrated use of The HistoryMakers' database through interviews like those of Lloyd Richards, director of the original Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun .

Rankine stated of the incorporation of the digital archive in his classroom: "Having access to HistoryMakers enhances how I can deliver instruction in drama and performance, while also teaching my students about research and library resources." 13

To read the University of Richmond's article on their incorporation of the digital archive into their curricula, click here.

Thank you again to all of our wonderful subscribing institutions!
Please share with us your stories of how you incorporate The HistoryMakers Digital Archive in your curriculum and research! We'd love to hear from you!

This week, 21 new interviews were added to The HistoryMakers Digital Archive:
The Honorable Priscilla Taylor

County commissioner and state representative The Honorable Priscilla Taylor (1949 - ) served on the Port of Palm Beach District Commission and the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. She also served in the Florida House of Representatives, where she was the Democratic whip from 2004 to 2006.
The Honorable Garnet Coleman

State representative The Honorable Garnet Coleman (1961 - ) represented Houston’s historic Third Ward in the Texas House of Representatives from 1991, and served as chair of the Legislative Study Group, County Affairs Committee chair, Public Health Committee senior member, and a House Select Committee for Mental Health member.
The Honorable Kenneth Gibson

Mayor and engineering executive The Honorable Kenneth Gibson (1932 - ) was elected Mayor of Newark, New Jersey in 1970, becoming the first African American mayor of a major Northeastern city. He served four consecutive terms, and in 1976, was the first African American to be elected president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Audrey M. Edmonson

Mayor and city commissioner Audrey M. Edmonson (1953 - ) served as the mayor of the Village of El Portal in Miami-Dade County, Florida from 1999 to 2005. Then, she represented the 3rd District on the Miami Board of Commissioners.

Joe Geeter, III

Noncommissioned officer Joe Geeter, III (1958 - ) was the 16th National President of the Montford Point Marine Association. He retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after twenty-five years of service, and became the corporate relations manager for AmeriGas Propane, Inc.
Tanya-Monique Kersey

Magazine editor and magazine publishing chief executive Tanya-Monique Kersey (1961 - ) was the founder and executive director of the Hollywood Black Film Festival in addition to being both publisher and editor-in-chief of Black Talent News.
Dr. Glenn W. Cherry

Media company chief executive and veterinarian Dr. Glenn W. Cherry (1958 - ) was the president and chief executive officer of Tama Broadcasting, Inc. He worked as a veterinarian for several years, and was a political appointee in the Clinton Administration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Charles Warfield, Jr.

Broadcast executive Charles Warfield, Jr. (1949 - ) served as president and chief operating officer of ICBC Broadcast Holdings, Inc., and as vice president and general manager of WBLS-FM and WLIB-AM Radio.
Dana Canedy

Newspaper editor and author Dana Canedy ( - ) was a senior editor at The New York Times. She was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for "How Race Is Lived in America." She was also the author of The New York Times bestseller A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor.

Susan Fales-Hill

Television producer Susan Fales-Hill (1962 - ) was a writer on the Cosby Show and A Different World; executive producer of Can’t Hurry Love and Kirk; and co-creator of the Showtime original series Linc’s. She also authored three books: Always Wear Joy: My Mother Bold and Beautiful, One Flight Up and Imperfect Bliss.
Eddie Levert

R & B singer Eddie Levert (1942 - ) was a founding member of The O’Jays, one of the most prominent R&B music groups of the 1970s.
Jimmy Heath

Musician and jazz composer Jimmy Heath (1926 - ) was known for his jazz and bebop contributions, notably his pieces “C.T.A.” and “Gingerbread Boy,” and as a member of the Heath Brothers. He was the first jazz musician to receive an honorary doctorate in music from the Juilliard School in New York.
Calvin "Kern" Grimes

Oil company chief executive Calvin "Kern" Grimes (1940 - ) was the president and CEO of Grimes Oil Company, Inc., which was founded by his father, Calvin Grimes, Sr., in 1940.
Isisara Bey

Music producer and songwriter James "Jimmy Jam" Harris, III (1959 - ) , along with partner, Terry Lewis, has garnered more awards than any other music producers in history. The recipients of five Grammy awards, Harris and Lewis were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010.
Gwen Mazer

Personal style and image consultant and author Gwen Mazer (1950 - ) was the first African American to serve a junior executive at Lord & Taylor department store and as Fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar magazine. She also founded Total Image Management and the Gwen Mazer Collection.
Bethann Hardison

Fashion consultant Bethann Hardison (1942 - ) was known for her pioneering work in revolutionizing and popularizing a more inclusive definition of beauty within the fashion industry.

Amsale Aberra

Fashion designer Amsale Aberra (1954 - ) was the cofounder, co-CEO, and creative director of the Amsale Design Group, which included the Amsale, Christos and Kenneth Pool wedding gown labels.
Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick

Physician and college president Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick (1971 - ) served as the provost of Howard University from 2012 to 2014, and then became Howard University’s seventeenth president.
Robert Lee Harris, Jr.

African american history professor Robert Lee Harris, Jr. (1943 - ) taught at Cornell University for over thirty-five years, and served as the director and vice provost of Cornell University’s Africana Studies and Research Center.
George H. Lambert

Association branch chief executive George H. Lambert (1951 - ) served as president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League in Alexandria, Virginia and the Lorain County Urban League, in Elyria, before being appointed the president and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League in 2014.
Shirley Kinsey

Art collector, educator, and Shirley Kinsey (1946 - ) and her husband, Bernard Kinsey, were the owners and curators of an extensive collection of African American art, books and manuscripts. She coauthored The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, which was a companion book to the exhibit of the same name.
2.      Author Kellen Beck, Mashable. Can be found at:
3.      Shannon Bond and Matthew Garrahan, Financial Times. Can be found at:
4.      Nancy Wang Yuen, Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism . Rutgers University Press, December 12, 2016.
5.      David L. Moody, The Complexity and Progression of Black Representation in Film and Television. Lexington Books, June 2, 2016.
6.      Ed Guerrero, Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film. Temple University Press, June 20, 2012.
7.      Arthur Wellesley French (The HistoryMakers A2005.127), interviewed by Larry Crowe, June 7, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 7, story 3, Arthur Wellesley French talks about continuing challenges in African American representation in film
8.      Robert Stull (The HistoryMakers A2005.029), interviewed by Robert Hayden, January 28, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 5, story 3, Robert Stull reflects on his life and career
9.      Tanya-Monique Kersey (The HistoryMakers A2007.198), interviewed by Ron Brewington, July 8, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 5, story 4, Tanya-Monique Kersey reflects upon the future of the black film industry, pt. 1
10.  Ed Guerrero, Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film. Temple University Press, June 20, 2012.
11.  Banner photo: Copyright of Disney and Marvel Studios. Image can be found:
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