The films, the stars, the filmmakers-all get their due in Hollywood Black, a sweeping overview of black people in film from the silent era through Black Panther, with striking photos and an engrossing history by award-winning author Donald Bogle. The story opens in the silent film era, when white actors in blackface played black characters and D. W. Griffith premiered his shocking, controversial The Birth of a Nation. Sound motion pictures were ushered in by Al Jolson in blackface in The Jazz Singer, but in this new era of filmmaking, black performers such as Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Paul Robeson began finding a place in Hollywood. More often than not, they were saddled with rigidly stereotyped roles, but some gifted performers were able to turn in significant performances, notably Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind (1939).
In the coming decades, more black talents would light up the screen. Dorothy Dandridge became the first African American to earn a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Carmen Jones (1954), and Sidney Poitier broke ground in films like 1963’s Lilies of the Field, for which he won the Best Actor Oscar. Hollywood Black reveals the changes in images that came about with the evolving social and political atmosphere of the country, from the Civil Rights era to the Black Power movement. The story takes readers through the Blaxploitation era with movies like Shaftand Super Fly, to the emergence of such stars as Diana Ross and Eddie Murphy, and of directors Spike Lee and John Singleton. The history comes to modern times with filmmakers Steve McQueen (Twelve Years a Slave) and Barry Jenkins (Moonlight); megastars Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Halle Berry; and a glorious gallery of others.
Filled with photographs and stories of stars and filmmakers on set and off, Hollywood Black tells an enthralling, underappreciated history as it’s never before been told.