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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
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Eyes on the Prize
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Citizen King

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



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



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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JMU Media Resources DVD 6970



Shadowboxer (2006)
On Order



More about Julie Dash



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
JMU Media Resources DVD 977

Shooting Script (online)



Illusions (1982)
JMU Media Resources Videotape 3361

Shooting Script (online)



More about Julie Dash



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



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

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



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
JMU Media Resources Videotape no.1938



Richard Wright's Almos' a Man (1976)

JMU Media Resources DVD 3294



More about Stan Lathan



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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He Got Game
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Girl 6

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Jungle Fever
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Do the Right Thing
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inside man film

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A Huey P. Newton Story

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Son of Sam
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4 Little Girls
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Malcolm X
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Mo' Better Blues
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School Daze
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Miracle at St. Anna

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



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

JMU Media Resources DVD 6512



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



More about Kasi Lemmons



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



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

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



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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Solomon Northrup's Odyssey

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



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.

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JMU Media Resources DVD 1820



More about Gordon Parks, Jr.



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

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madea goes to jail film

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the family that preys film

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why did i get married film

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Madea's Big Happy Family

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

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

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



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
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Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
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The Last Dragon Image from Amazon

Woman Thou Art Loosed
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



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
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Boyz 'n the Hood
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Baby Boy
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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



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...
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Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song
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



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

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Blood of Jesus film

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Girl in Room 20 (1946)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6420



The Blood of Jesus (1941)

JMU Media Resources DVD 6419



More about Spencer Williams


Related Books and Videos


Literary Adaptations book

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Black Hollywood book

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Video Cover

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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
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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

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)



More about African American Film Directors

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This page last reviewed by Carl Nelson on 09/26/2011
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