Thursday, June 13, 2024

Celebrating black filmmakers throughout history


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Featured Graphic by Destiny Mizell

Story by Larry Rincon

From pioneering in the early 1900s with Oscar Micheaux to newer faces such as Jordan Peele,
cinema has been impacted by numerous Black filmmakers.

As Black History Month comes to a close, it is important to remember that throughout cinema
history many black individuals contributed towards the development of technique and diversity. From
as early as the silent film era to modern day, black filmmakers have played a major role in this

A Father of Early Cinema: Oscar Michaux

Oscar Micheaux is a father of early cinema as the first black director to create
feature-length films. He wrote the book “Homesteader” which later he adapted to
an independent film as the sole producer. This served as the foundation for his role as a director. His work critiqued the representation of black people in films, especially after the
release of “Birth of a Nation”. During his time making films he faced a lot of backlash from
boards who would censor or edit his work; However he ultimately used that in his favor by
promoting his uncensored work to curious audiences.

Black Film Industry During the Civil Rights Movement: Director Charles Burnett

After Micheaux in the silent film era, black filmmakers birthed the black film industry once more
alongside the civil right’s movement in the 1960s. Charles Burnett, one of these filmmakers, released
“Killer of Sheep” in 1978. The film provided a more humane outlook on inner-city life of Los Angeles. Since then the film has been declared a national treasure by the Library of Congress.

Black Film Industry Post Civil Rights Movement: Filmmaker Spike Lee

Spike Lee is another well known and highly accomplished black filmmaker. Lee was an
post civil rights movement innovator. During the 1980s, Spike Lee and many other
filmmakers were getting their creations out in the world with little to no budgets and without the
industry’s support. With the fall of the Hollywood Studio System, Lee was able to create his
first feature film in 1986 “She’s Gotta Have It”. Lee was the writer, director, producer, editor and even acted in this film.

From Comedy to Yelling “Cut”: Director Jordan Peele

In more recent years we’ve seen other black filmmakers such as Jordan Peele. He started his
career off as an actor and comedian, but now he is directing films. Peele is well
known for his work in the horror film genre, from his first film “Get Out” a psychological horror to
his most recent “Nope”. He’s won many awards, including the 2018 Academy Award for Best
Original Screenplay in “Get Out”.

Climbing the Ladder: Actor and Director Michael B. Jordan

Another recent Black filmmaker is Micheal B. Jordan. He has worked his way up in the industry.
From an actor in prime-time television, to playing well renowned roles in the more recent years
as he worked with Ryan Coogler. He’s most recognizable for his roles in “Black Panther” and
the “Creed” series. He is now the director for the latest “Creed” installment.

First Black Director for Marvel Studios: Filmmaker Ryan Coogler

Circling back to Ryan Coogler, he is a very important filmmaker as a black creator. He
made his breakthrough with his first feature film “Fruitvale Station” starring Micheal B. Jordan,
and since then has had success after success. He created the “Creed” series, writing and
directing the first film in 2015. His achievement as the first black director for Marvel Studios with
the release of “Black Panther” has also helped in making his name become well known.


This list is a small look at black filmmakers who are an essential part of film history. There are several
more who helped pioneer and establish the foundations for the industry, not to
mention there is an even bigger set of black individuals who have helped establish the black
community through television.

In the future, we can expect for more innovation and more achievements to come from current
and future black filmmakers, creators and actors.

Larry Rincon is a Movie Review and Lifestyles Reporter for MTSU Sidelines.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell, email For more news, visit, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

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