From Sambo to Superspade: The Black Experience in Motion Pictures

By Daniel J. Leab | Go to book overview

9
TOWARD A NEW IMAGE

FROM THE EVIDENCE presented on the screen, it would have been hard to tell that the 1950s and 1960s were a period of some of the greatest social, economic, and demographic upheavals in the history of the United States, especially for the black. In 1954 the Supreme Court made Jim Crow public schools illegal. Nonviolent sit-ins and demonstrations to integrate Southern public facilities began, bringing to the fore the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and his brand of passive resistance. Congress passed civil-rights legislation dealing with voting and public accommodations. As the historian Otis Graham, Jr., sardonically pointed out, "now that the laws of the nation required equal treatment for all regardless of color, blacks could presumably begin to vote and go to school and eat and get haircuts along with everyone else and live happily ever after." 1

Black militancy increased, however, as it became clear that a more vicious kind of economic discrimination persisted, condemning most American nonwhites (as well as many whites) to second-class citizenship. President Lyndon Johnson initiated a "War on Poverty," but funding fell increasingly short as the war in Vietnam escalated. As large segments of the black population

Two escaped convicts, Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis, make their improbably symbolic way through a southern slough of despond in Stanley Kramer 1958 The Defiant Ones. (National Film Archive/ Courtesy United Artists)

-197-

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From Sambo to Superspade: The Black Experience in Motion Pictures
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • For My Parents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction: the Lack of Humanity 1
  • 1 - The Gamut from a to B 7
  • 2 - The Birth of a Nation 23
  • 3 - The Freezing of an Image 41
  • 4 - All-Colored" --But Not Very Different" 59
  • 5 - Shufflin' into Bound 83
  • 6 - A Limited Response 119
  • 7 - Glimmers of Change 145
  • 8 - A Pale Black Imitation 173
  • 9 - Toward a New Image 197
  • 10 - Black is Boxoffice 233
  • Notes 265
  • Bibliography 279
  • Index 289
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