xviii Introduction pioneering collective dedicated to making films that veered away from ste- reotypical characterizations and showed all facets of the African American experience in all genres, from neorealism to the mystical and previously shadowed aspects of slavery. Sankofa is the only film discussed that shows Maroon or outlier communities that runaways established. In 2013, the #Black Lives Matter organization was created to bring awareness of police brutality and systemic racism. Social media and citizen journalism have been game changers. Thanks to Darnella Frazier, a witness who filmed and posted on social media the former Minneapolis police offi- cer, Derek Chauvin, not taking his knee off George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in 2020, Chauvin was found guilty of murder and man- slaughter and sentenced in 2022 to twenty-one years in prison. It’s hard to watch the brutality of Frazier’s footage, but it’s hard to turn away from it. The power of filmic images endures and convicts. Robert Rosenstone said, “Historical films trouble and disturb (most) pro- fessional historians. Historians will say films are inaccurate. They distort the past, they fictionalize, they trivialize, and romanticize” (5). Additionally, as Winston Churchill, who may or may not have been the first to claim it, said, history itself is “written by the victors.” Historical narratives stick until they’re challenged—for example, Christopher Columbus’s “discov- ery” of America. In some places, the federal holiday Columbus Day is now called Indigenous Peoples’ Day, honoring Native Americans who suffered oppression and marginalization after the Europeans arrived. The represen- tation of American slavery on film legacy was limited for a long time to the dominant—the white—point of view. The two films about life during slavery in the South that proved, unfortu- nately, the most influential and enduring, up until the airing of the phenom- enal miniseries Roots, were Victor Fleming’s romantic melodrama Gone with the Wind (1939), set from 1861 until 1873, and D. W. Griffith’s silent epic The Birth of a Nation (1915), set during Reconstruction, 1865–77, the years after Emancipation. Griffith’s nearly three-hour racist, but cinemati- cally worthy, film was based on the novel The Clansman, by Thomas Dixon (Doubleday, Page &Co., 1905). The film stars Lillian Gish and white actors in blackface playing free Black men as malicious predators, rapists, and murderers. The Ku Klux Klan in the film are saviors, and attacks on Black communities spiked after the film’s release. The Black filmmaker and novel- ist Oscar Micheaux (1884–1951), considered the first Black movie mogul, wrote and directed a silent film, titled Within Our Gates (1920)—the oldest extant film directed by a Black filmmaker. An attack against lynching, it was also an attack on the racism of The Birth of a Nation, which was controver- sial. Black and white groups unsuccessfully tried to block the film’s opening. White supremacy and a normalization of slavery embedded in other Hol- lywood epics that background one-dimensional enslaved characterizations include William Wyler’s Jezebel (1938), starring Bette Davis as a Southern
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