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Celebrate African American culture in film.

MGM's classic, Cooley High
MGM's classic, Cooley High
poster image courtesy of Google images.

Cooley High, Do the Right Thing, Boyz in the Hood, a few films that have highlighted the black experience in America. Thought provoking, humorous, and revelatory, it is safe to say that black cinema has made its mark on Hollywood. Despite receiving heavy criticism and drawing controversy, some might say the portrayal of minorities has not progressed, some will say it has. Whatever the case, our lives have been displayed on the big screen in many ways.

As we celebrate our history and heritage this month, let’s take a look at a three films that have broken ground as well as simply entertained.

Do the right Thing:

In 1986, a young filmmaker by the name of Spike Lee jumped on the scene, creating a striking look at a sweltering summer afternoon in Bedford Stuyvesant, a multiethnic enclave inhabited by blacks, Asians, Italians, and those of Irish descent. Using the element of discomfort from high temperatures and the eventual curiosity of a character known as “buggin out” (portrayed wonderfully by Juan Carlo Esposito) and his questioning of why Sal’s, a local pizza joint, has no pictures of brothas on the wall, a simple inquiry ignites the truth beneath lingering racial ignorance, thus causing a race riot and dividing a once amiable neighborhood.

Cooley High:

It was the class of 1964, Leroy “Preach Jackson and Richard “Cochise” Morris, were just two of a small group of young men living on the north side of Chicago. The tagline for the film, release during 1979 by American International Pictures (AIP) stated: the Student Body Was a Chick Named Veronica... The Senior Prom was a "belly rub" and the Class of '64 ran a Permanent crap game in the Men's Room, became the blueprint for future coming of age films showcasing the inner-city lives of black men. Director Michael Schultz, a veteran of helming episodic television series such as Brothers & Sisters, Boston Public, and Ally Mcbeal, constructs a touching, often hilarious portrait of youth from the black perspective.

Boyz in Da Hood

The year was 1991, and Boyz in Da Hood hit theaters with little expectation. But soon, after its first week in theaters, it was clear the message coming from a little known filmmaker by the name of John Singleton that it was intended shock the world. Nominated for two Academy Awards, Boyz in Da Hood brought to moviegoers a strikingly realistic film about the drama and perils of ghetto life.

What made Boyz in Da Hood stand out was its ability to infuse issues of gang violence, fatherhood, and above all, a message of hope amongst the dark realities that each character in the film faced. It was a wakeup call for not only black communities across the nation, but one for major studios as well.

With a new crop of young directors such as: Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) Tyler Perry (Why Did I get Married Too) and the Hughes Brothers (The Book of Eli) Hollywood has seemingly embraced the cinematic voice of African American filmmakers whether it be through comedy or hard, crime drama or tales of family and marital strife, our foundation has been laid, and may it hopefully continue.

Here’s a small list of other films that have chronicled the lives of African American culture.

1. Roots
2. Mahogany
3. Love Jones
4. Soul Food
5. Coming to America
6. Crooklyn
7. The Color Purple
8. A Raisin in the Sun
9. Akeelah and the Bee
10. Lean on Me

See the complete list:

For more reviews and film commentary, you can also follow Paul Hood at and



  • Greg 5 years ago

    Might I suggest Killer of Sheep, probably one of the most influential and important films no one has ever seen.

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