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Black History Month & Black Cinema

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 1, 2008 09:29am | Post a Comment
 

1915

Birth of a Nation was released. It was the most profitable American film of all time until Disney's Snow White & the Seven Dwarves (1937). In this critical darling, director D.W. Griffith dramatically depicts a mid-19th century south plagued by mulattos and abolitionists who scheme to keep the white man down and raise up the black man in what is, to its intended audience, an obviously grotesque perversion of natural order. In government sessions, the reconstruction-empowered black politicians (played buffoonishly by white actors) take off their shoes and feast on fried chicken. Luckily, the chivalric Ku Klux Klan rides to the rescue.

This version of history was angrily disputed (famously by
W.E.B. Du Bois, among others) but remained pretty much the accepted version of history until well after World War II. The NAACP, founded just five years earlier, organized nationwide protests. There were riots in Philadelphia and Boston. Cities in Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania refused to show the film. In Indiana, a white man murdered a black stranger and blamed it on having seen Birth of a Nation. However, the film received a special screening at the White House, where president Woodrow Wilson supposedly remarked, "It [the film] is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true." The quote was later argued to be from someone else but the film was still marketed as "Federally-endorsed."

Strange Things Happening Every Day: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Posted by Miss Ess, October 12, 2007 06:21pm | Post a Comment
sister rosetta tharpe

I feel like eversister rosetta tharpeybody should know about Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Isn't it sad how unexpected it seems to see a woman playing a guitar in old black and white footage? It seems almost bizarre. Sister Rosetta Tharpe doesn't just play the guitar, she brings so much energy and passion to it-- it's joyful, or at least, it always perks me up to see her play and sing. She has a huge sense of spirit.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was definitely a pioneer in the world of gospel and rock n roll too. I don't really think there's anyone else like sister rosetta tharpeher. She was popular in the 30s and 40s. She wasn't afraid to blend the sacred with the secular, which was kind of revolutionary at the time. Apparently she was quite shocking in her day, which makes sense because watching her even today she was so sister rosetta tharpefar ahead of the game and so fearless, it's shocking and also affirming to know she existed.

Watching a woman perform in gospel robes clutching and coaxing an electric guitar, the newly invented  symbol of sin to so many at the time, it's refreshing! It's exciting! It's inspiring! She's a consummate performer and entertainer; she's killer. Check out a performance:


Now that's a solo!

Hispanic Heritage Month

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 14, 2007 09:31am | Post a Comment
   
Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week. We never learned about it in my schools, which prided themselves on being among the most progressive in the country. Every year we celebrated Black History Month, which began, amazingly, in 1926 as Negro History Week back when the Ku Klux Klan enjoyed its peak membership of 4 to 5 million people (or a whopping 15% of the nation's eligible men). Anyway, we students always raised the same questions: Is it in February because it's the shortest month? Where's Asian or Latino History Month? Where's White History Month? I don't recall my teachers having the answers except that we learned plenty of white history year-round and Black History Month was a time to recognize the contributions of a people to American culture who'd been systematically ignored.

So, this year I found out about Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which began in 1978 and which I had NEVER heard mentioned. Some Asians I knew had, including, of course, noted justice-minded free-thinker Ngoc-Thu Thi Nguyen. She said it was marked by more documentaries about Japanese Internment Camps being shown on PBS. At the same time, I found out about Hispanic Heritage Month, which I mentioned started in 1968, and which I'd also never heard about. 

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