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Black history in the movies

By Chelsea Wehrle
On February 21, 2014


February is Black History Month and one way to reflect on African-American history is by watching movies.

Hollywood has produced many films that give an ode to the hardships of living life as an African-American during periods of social inequality in the United States.

Movies about the treatment of African-Americans help translate America's past to existing and future generations. 

The movie "The Help" was released in 2011. The picture, which is based on the book by Kathryn Stockett, was directed and written by Tate Taylor. Actors and actresses included Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone. The film was set during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. The movie tells the story of a young white writer interested in surveying the lives of African-American maids in the households of white families. Spencer assumed the role as one of the maids and received a 2012 Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. 

 "The Butler" was released almost two years later in 2013. Based on a true story, the film portrays the life of Cecil Gaines, an African-American who served 34 years as a White House butler. Eugene Allen's life is the inspiration for the movie's events and the character Cecil Gaines.  Directed by Lee Daniels, this story stars Forest Whitaker, John Cusack and Oprah Winfrey. Daniels received Director of the Year at the 2013 Hollywood Film Festival for his work on the film. 

 The film "Amistad", staring Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey and Djimon Hounsou was released in 1997. The film's setting goes back in time before the civil rights movement to 1839. A ship called "Amistad" carried Africans who had been sold into slavery from Cuba to the United States. Directed by Steven Spielberg the film has a lot to offer. In 1998, "Amistad" won for Outstanding European Achievement in World Cinema at the European Film Awards.

Other movies dealing with the history of black Americans include: "The Color Purple", "Boyz 'N the Hood", "Ray", "Amazing Grace" and "Roots".

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