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Media Arts & Design > Film Studies

African American Film Directors

JMU Libraries has many films by African American directors.  This guide lists prominent directors and some of their works, along with links for more information.

 


 

Orlando Bagwell

Documentary filmmaker. 

"In the past twenty years, Bagwell has executive produced two series, and produced and directed thirteen documentaries for PBS that trace the lived experience of African-American history and explore the shifting but persistent realities of racism in America." 

--Abrash, Barbara. (2004) "Matters of race: an interview with Orlando Bagwell." Cineaste. 30:1 34.

Among his many films are Roots of Resistance: A Story of the Underground Railroad (1990), Malcolm X: Make it Plain (1995), The Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery (1998), the PBS series Matters of Race (2003) and Citizen King (2004).


Malcolm X: Make it Plain
Image from Amazon

Eyes on the Prize
Image from Amazon

 


Citizen King
(2004)

VIVA Streaming Video Collection (JMU/VIVA users)


 

The Terrible Transformation (1998)

VIVA Streaming Video Collection (JMU/VIVA users)


 

Malcolm X: Make it Plain (1995)

JMU Media Resources Videotape no.4054


 

New Worlds, New Forms (1993)

JMU Media Resources Videotape no.3235

JMU Music Library VC 223 no.5


 

Roots of Resistance: a Story of the Underground Railroad (1990)

VIVA Streaming Video Collection (JMU/VIVA users)

JMU Media Resources Videotape no.1982


 

Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1986) (Producer)

  • Ain't Scared of Your Jails, 1960-1961
    JMU Media Resource DVD 2496
  • Mississippi: Is this America?, 1962-1964

JMU Media Resources Videotape no. 7598

 


 

More about Orlando Bagwell

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Thomas Carter (1954-  )

Directed pilots for successful television series, including "St. Elsewhere" and "Miami Vice."  Won an Emmy in 1990 for directing the television show "Equal Justice." Swing Kids was his first feature film.


coach carter film

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metro film

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save the last dance film

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Swing Kids
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Coach Carter (2005)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6474

 


 

Save the Last Dance (2001)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6496

 


 

Metro (1997)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6492

 


 

Swing Kids (1993)
JMU Media Resources DVD 2006

 


 

More about Thomas Carter

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Lee Daniels (1959-  )

Produced Monster's Ball and directed the film Precious, which received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Director; the film won two of the awards.


precious film
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shadowboxer film

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Precious
(2009)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6970

 


 

Shadowboxer (2006)
On Order

 


 

More about Julie Dash

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Julie Dash (1952-  )

Directed Daughters of the Dust, the "first first commercial feature-length film produced by a black woman."


Daughters of the Dust
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Daughters of the Dust
(1991)
JMU Media Resources DVD 977

Shooting Script (online)

 


 

Illusions (1982)
JMU Media Resources Videotape 3361

Shooting Script (online)

 


 

More about Julie Dash

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Carl Franklin (1949-  )

Television actor; television and film director.  Famous films include One False Move (1992), Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), One True Thing (1998), and High Crimes (2002).


high crimes film

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One True Thing
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One False Move
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High Crimes (2002)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6505

 


 

One True Thing (1998)
JMU Media Resources DVD 798

 


 

One False Move (1991)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1703

 


 

More about Carl Franklin

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Allen Hughes (1972-  ) and Albert Hughes (1972-  )

Twin brother team that began in music videos and went on to feature films.  Films include Menace II Society (1993), Dead Presidents (1995), American Pimp (1999), and From Hell (2001).


book of eli film
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From Hell
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Menace II Society
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new york i love you film

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Dead Presidents
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The Book of Eli
(2010)

JMU Media Resources DVD 7021

 


 

New York, I Love You (2009)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6554

 


 

From Hell (2001)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1758

 


 

Dead Presidents (1995)
JMU Media Resources DVD 1818

 


 

Menace II Society (1993)
JMU Media Resources DVD 1732

 


 

More about the Hughes Brothers

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Stan Lathan

Lathan's television directing career goes back to 1969 with "Sesame Street."  He has a long list of directing credits, including "Sanford and Son" (1972), "Barney Miller" (1975), "Eight is Enough" (1977), "Hill Street Blues" (1981), "Fame" (1982), "Roc" (1991), and "Moesha" (1996).


The Sky is Gray
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Image of Richard Wright's Almos' a Man

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Sky is Gray
(1980)
JMU Media Resources Videotape no.1938

 


 

Richard Wright's Almos' a Man (1976)

JMU Media Resources DVD 3294

 


 

More about Stan Lathan

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Spike Lee (1957-  )

"'Fight the power,' the theme song to his 1989 film Do the Right Thing, could easily be Spike Lee's personal motto. From his earliest days as a student filmmaker to his $33-million epic Malcolm X, Lee demonstrated a willingness to tackle prickly issues of relevance to the black community, while savoring every ounce of controversy his films invariably produce."

-- American Decades. Gale Research, 1998.


miracle at st. anna film

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25th Hour
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Bamboozled
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He Got Game
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Girl 6

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Crooklyn
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Jungle Fever
Image from Amazon

Do the Right Thing
Image from Amazon

 

inside man film

Image from Amazon

A Huey P. Newton Story

Image from Amazon

Son of Sam
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4 Little Girls
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Clockers
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Malcolm X
Image from Amazon

Mo' Better Blues
Image from Amazon

School Daze
Image from Amazon


Miracle at St. Anna
(2009)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6494

 


 

Inside Man (2006)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6471

 


 

When the Levees Broke (2006)

JMU Media Resources DVD 2740-2742

 


 

25th Hour (2003)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1735

 


 

A Huey P. Newton Story (2001)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1819

 


 

Bamboozled (2000)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1371

 


 

The Original Kings of Comedy

JMU Media Resources DVD 459

 


 

Summer of Sam (1999)

JMU Media Resources DVD 141

 


 

He Got Game (1998)

JMU Media Resources DVD 203

 


 

4 Little Girls (1997)

JMU Media Resources DVD 407

 


 

Girl 6 (1996)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1815

 


 

Clockers (1995)

JMU Media Resources DVD 144

 


 

Crooklyn (1994)

JMU Media Resources DVD 150

 


 

Malcolm X (1992)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1737-1738

 


 

Jungle Fever (1991)

JMU Media Resources DVD 193

 


 

Mo' Better Blues (1990)

JMU Media Resources DVD 413

 


 

Do the Right Thing (1989)
JMU Media Resources DVD 180

 


 

School Daze (1988)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1759

 


 

More about Spike Lee

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Kasi Lemmons (1961-  )

"With the release of Eve's Bayou in late 1997, Kasi Lemmons emerged as one of the American film industry's most talked about young filmmakers."

--Contemporary Black Biography, Gale Group, 1998.


cavemans valentine film

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Eve's Bayou
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The Caveman's Valentine
(2001)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6512

 


 

Eve's Bayou (1997)
JMU Media Resources DVD 1261

 


 

More about Kasi Lemmons

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Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951)

In a career that began in 1919, Oscar Micheaux (January 2, 1884–March 26, 1951) produced more than forty "race movies"—motion pictures made for African-American audiences—a record unmatched in American cinema history.

-- Encyclopedia of the Great Depression, Gale Biography in Context, 2004


Lying Lips film

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Moon Over Harlem film

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The Girl from Chicago film

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Within Our Gates film

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God's Step Children film

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Murder in Harlem film

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Paul Robeson filmImage from Amazon

 

Lying Lips (1939)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6419

 


 

God's Step Children (1938)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6420

 


 

Swing! (1938)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6421

 


 

Murder in Harlem (1935)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6412

 



The Girl from Chicago (1932)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6418

 


 

Paul Robeson:  Portraits of the Artist, Disc 2:  Body and Soul (1925)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6046 - 6049

 


 

Within Our Gates (1920)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6260

 


 

The African American Cinema I: Oscar Micheaux's Within Our Gates (1920)

JMU Media Resources Videotape no. 4108

 


 

More about Gordon Parks

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Stanley Nelson (1955-  )

Documentary filmmaker and winner of a 2002 MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a "genius" award.


emmett till video graphic

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Marcus Garvey

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We Shall Remain, Disc 3, Pt. 2:  Wounded Knee
(2009)

JMU Media Resources DVD 5377

 


 

The Murder of Emmett Till (2003)

VIVA Streaming Video Collection (JMU/VIVA users)

 


 

Marcus Garvey: Look for me in the Whirlwind (2001)

JMU Media Resources Videotape no.7141

VIVA Streaming Video Collection (JMU/VIVA users)

 


 

The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords (1998)

JMU Media Resources Videotape no. 5971

JMU Media Resources Multimedia CD 168

 


 

Shattering the Silences (1997)

JMU Media Resources Videotape no. 5282

 


 

More about Stanley Nelson

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Gordon Parks (1912-2006)

Writer, photojournalist, director, composer.

"Gordon Parks's 'life constitutes an American success story of almost mythic proportions,' Andy Grundberg once commented in New York Times. "

-- Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2006.


solomon northups odyssey video graphic

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Shaft
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Solomon Northrup's Odyssey
(1996)

JMU Media Resources Videotape no. 4886

 


 

Gordon Parks' "Visions": The Images, Words, and Music of Gordon Parks (1991)

JMU Media Resources Videotape no. 3955

 


 

Shaft (1971)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1761

 


 

More about Gordon Parks

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Gordon Parks, Jr. (1934-1979)

Son of the more famous Gordon Parks who directed Shaft, Parks, Jr., made four films from 1972 to 1975.  In 1979, he died in a plane crash in Kenya.


Superfly
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Superfly
(1972)
JMU Media Resources DVD 1820

 


 

More about Gordon Parks, Jr.

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Tyler Perry (1969-  )

Actor, director, playwright, screenwriter, producer, author, and songwriter. Perry wrote and produced many stage plays in the South during the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2005, he released his first film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman.  In 2009, Perry was ranked by Forbes magazine as the sixth highest-paid man in Hollywood.  As of June 2011, Perry's films had grossed over $500 million worldwide.


madeas big happy family film

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why did i get married too film
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madeas family reunion film

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meet the browns film

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daddys little girls film

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for colored girls film

Image from Amazon

 

madea goes to jail film

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the family that preys film

Image from Amazon

 

why did i get married film

Image from Amazon

 


Madea's Big Happy Family
(2011)

JMU Media Resources DVD 7064


 

For Colored Girls (2010)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6439

 


 

Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010)

JMU Media Resources DVD 7067

 



Madea Goes to Jail
(2009)

JMU Media Resources DVD 7065

 


 

Madea's Family Reunion (2006)

JMU Media Resources DVD 7063

 


 

The Family that Preys (2008)

JMU Media Resources DVD 7047

 



Meet the Browns
(2008)

JMU Media Resources DVD 7062

 


 

Why Did I Get Married (2007)

JMU Media Resources DVD 7066

 


 

Daddy's Little Girls (2007

JMU Media Resources DVD 7066

 


 

More about Tyler Perry

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Michael Schultz (1938-  )

Film, theatre, and television director.  Film work includes Cooley High (1975), Car Wash (1976), Which Way is Up? (1977), Greased Lightning (1977), and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978).  Recent work includes films as well as television series such as "Charmed," "JAG," "Boston Public," and "City of Angels."


Woman Thou Art Loosed
Image from Amazon

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
Image from Amazon

The Last Dragon Image from Amazon


Woman Thou Art Loosed
(2004)
JMU Media Resources DVD 1760

 


 

The Last Dragon (1985)
JMU Media Resources DVD 1702

 


 

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
JMU Music Library MDVD 139

 


 

More about Michael Schultz

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John Singleton (1968-  )

Film screenwriter, producer and director.  His works include Boyz 'n the Hood (1991), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, Poetic Justice (1993), Higher Learning (1994), Rosewood (1997), Shaft (2000), Baby Boy (2001), 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), and Four Brothers (2005).


Four Brothers
Image from Amazon

Shaft
Image from Amazon

Boyz 'n the Hood
Image from Amazon

Baby Boy
Image from Amazon

Rosewood
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Four Brothers (2005)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1731

 


 

Baby Boy (2001)
JMU Media Resources DVD 1704  

 


 

Shaft (2000)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1259

 


 

Rosewood (1997)

JMU Media Resources DVD 1287

 


 

Boyz 'n the Hood (1991)
JMU Media Resources Videodisc no.109

 


 

More about John Singleton

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Melvin Van Peebles (1932-  )

"...Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, is probably his best known work to date. He made the film in three weeks, using nonunion crews while keeping union officials disinterested by spreading rumors that he was making a pornographic film..."

-- Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2006.


Sweet Sweetbacks...
Image from Amazon


Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song
(1971)
JMU Media Resources
DVD 1757

Shooting Script (online) 

 


 

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song: a Guerilla Filmmaking Manifesto

JMU Carrier Library Stacks PN1997.S9 V3 2004

 


 

More about Melvin Van Peebles

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Spencer Williams (1893 - 1969)

American actor, writer, director, and producer whose early pioneering work in African-American or "race" films was eclipsed in fame by his role as one of the title characters in the equally pioneering and also controversial 1950s sitcom "The Amos 'n Andy Show".


Girl in Room 20

Image from Amazon

Blood of Jesus film

Image from Amazon

 

 

Girl in Room 20 (1946)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6420

 


 

The Blood of Jesus (1941)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6419

 


 

More about Spencer Williams

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Related Books and Videos

 

Literary Adaptations book

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Black Hollywood book

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Video Cover

Image from Amazon

Black Directors in Hollywood
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Book Cover

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Toms, Coons, Mulattoes...
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Reflections on Blaxploitation

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BaadAssss Cinema: a Bold Look
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Black City Cinema
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Black Lenses, Black Voices
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Why We Make Movies
Image from Amazon

 

Literary Adaptations in Black American Cinema (2010)

JMU Carrier Library Stacks PN1995.9.N4 L87 2010

 


 

Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak (2009)

JMU Carrier Library Stacks PN1995.9.N4 R46 2009

 


 

Black Hollywood (2008)

JMU Media Resources DVD 5536

 



Afro Promo: Black Cinema Trailers 1946-1976
(2006)

JMU Media Resources DVD 2696

 


 

BaadAssss Cinema: a Bold Look at 70's Blaxploitation Films (2002)
JMU Media Resources DVD 1445


 

Black City Cinema: African American Urban Experiences in Film (2003)

JMU Carrier Library Stacks PN1995.9.N4 M33 2003

 


Black Directors in Hollywood (2003)

JMU Carrier Library Stacks PN1995.9.N4 D66 2003

Online (JMU users)


 

Black Lenses, Black Voices: African American Film Now (2005)

JMU Carrier Library Stacks PN1995.9.N4 R43 2005

 


 

Historical Dictionary of African American Cinema (2007)

JMU Carrier Library Reference  PN1995.9.N4 B433 2007

 


 

Screens Fade to Black: Contemporary African American Cinema

JMU Carrier Library Stacks PN1995.9.N4 L46 2006    

 


 

Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, & Bucks: an Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (2004)

JMU Carrier Library Stacks PN1995.9.N4 B6 2004

 


 

Why We Make Movies: Black Filmmakers Talk about the Magic of Cinema (2003)

JMU Carrier Library Stacks PN1995.9.N4 A43 2003

Online (JMU users)

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More about African American Film Directors

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James Madison University Libraries & Educational Technologies