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Early Black Films Black films from the 1920s, 1930s, a

Black films from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s were produced by black filmmakers for a black circuit and were rarely seen by white audiences. So-called blaxploitation films from the late 1960s and early 1970s were produced by white filmmakers for a largely urban audience, and these films were shaped for white audiences as well as black. The black films from an earlier era showed a wide range of subject matter, with the mass of films emulating white genres such as detective stories, westerns, comedies, domestic dramas, crime dramas, and so on. The blaxploitation films of the 1970s were much more limited, being primarily crime and action films featuring drug use, violence, sexual situations, and so on, creating an image of blacks that was limited and, in the eyes of many critics, degrading. It would be wrong to argue that the black films of the 1930s were high artistic achievements, for overall they were not, but they did offer a more varied view of black life than could be found in the studio-financed action fantasies of the sixties and seventies. Between those films and the exploitation works of the 1960s there is a void as far as films made by blacks for blacks are concerned, and blacks in films in the interim were all reflections of white views of blackness. The exploitation films of the 1960s and early 1970s were a different sort of white image of blacks. It would not be until after the large-scale success of the Civil Rights Movement and accompanying shifts in social attitudes that a more varied black film movement would develop with directors like Spike Lee, Carl Franklin, John Singleton, and Forrest Whitaker would bring a black perspective to black subjects.

The all-black film movement started in the silent era with the Lincoln Motion Picture company in Los Angeles in 1916, a black-owned and operated film corporation (Sampson 27). The most successful of all black-owned independent film production companies was the Michea...

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