The African-American Civil Rights Movement

This section of the History and Film website provides film resources related to The African-American Civil Rights Movement.  We have included several parts: a timeline of key dates and events (with links), a film list subdivided into categories, a brief bibliography, a section on key figures (stars, directors, producers), and links for further research. We have also included information and films we think are significant concerning the wider history of African Americans, as well as African American films from before and after the Civil Rights Movement itself.  While clearly brief and a work in progress, the material we provide is meant to serve as a starting point for students interested in the topic.

The Civil Rights Movement in the United States refers to the African-American pursuit of civil rights after the end of World War Two as a response to the long history of discriminating, inhuman treatment of African-Americans.  While no dates clearly mark the beginning and end of the Civil Rights Movement, it is generally agreed to have been at its peak from 1955 to 1965.  During that time a number of key events occurred, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956) and the March on Washington (1963).  It also produced some of the greatest leaders of the African American community, such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Daisy Bates.

The Civil Rights Movement had many influence on American society.  Among these was the birth of an African American film industry.  The Civil Rights Movement also marked a shift in the representation of African Americans in films.  Before the 1960s, depictions of African Americans in US films were based on notoriously demeaning stereotypes, often played by white actors in blackface.  In addition to greater range and realism in the roles offered to African American actors, exemplified by the early careers of Sydney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge, a generation of African American filmmakers would follow, such as Spike Lee, Oprah Winfrey, and Ernest Dickerson.  Today, African Americans are a major force in American film.

Editors: Stacy Wu (akashadamned2@hotmail.com), Veronica Wang (veka93@gmail.com)

©2006 English Department at NCU. All Rights Reserved.