African americans' civil rights and cinema in the twentieth century
Ojeda Telletxea, Alizia
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This paper seeks to study the history of African American civil rights through cinema, from the 1910s to the 1960s. In the twentieth century, the fight for black civil rights became a defining moment for American history, and the film industry played an essential role in the evolution of the civil rights movement. Black representation in Hollywood could impact a broad audience; it could influence how the general white public perceived African Americans. Thus, by analyzing six films from six different decades (and the historical context), the aim is to see the historical and social influence of the film industry on the topic of African Americans’ civil rights. Firstly, the analysis will start with a look at the 1910s "The Birth of a Nation" (1915) and its link to historic presidents and organizations, like Woodrow Wilson and the Ku Klux Klan. Secondly, the paper will continue with the 1920s and the movie "Within Our Gates" (1920) by Oscar Micheaux; the Roaring Twenties will be characterized in this paper by black progress, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Republican-led political sphere. Thirdly, the 1930s will be represented by "Gone with the Wind" (1939) and issues such as the start of sociopolitical awareness in cinema due to fascism, the Great Depression of 1929, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, and the New Deal. Then, the 1940s will be examined through the lens of World War II and its impact on American unity; therefore, "Stormy Weather" (1943), a musical, will be representing this decade. Subsequently, "The Defiant Ones" (1958) will introduce the 1950s and the civil rights movement; thus, black historical moments and the shift in representation of black Americans in cinema will be mentioned. Finally, "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner" (1967) will demonstrate the relevance of representation regarding interracial marriage and the change in the civil rights movement, which will lead to a general conclusion about the importance of film and Hollywood in the sociopolitical field.