Can movies teach us about African-American history?
Can movies or television really teach us anything useful about African-American history?
It's a reasonable question to ask as we begin Black History Month.
Certainly, the legacy of such famous films as "The Birth of a Nation" (1915) and "Gone With the Wind" (1939) was to give the public a distorted view of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction while offering portrayals of African Americans that were either virulently hateful or condescending.
And because of such films, says Patricia Turner, professor of African-American studies at University of California, Davis, "a lot of the public thinks that the plantation was the dominant entity on which slaves lived during the era of slavery."
In fact, Turner says, "very, very few slaves lived on plantations. Most slaves lived in units that had 10 or fewer slaves on them. Very few black women were domestic servants; you had to be extraordinarily wealthy to take a woman out of the fields and to have female household servants as we see in 'Gone With the Wind,' 'North and South' and the other great plantation epics.
comments powered by Disqus
- OAH issues a statement in support of the AP standards
- Daniel Pipes says in interview that the absence of anti-Israel protests in Muslim countries is highly significant
- A historian who studies China has discovered an overlooked angle in the debate about the Middle East. Could he have figured out a key reason for Iraq’s failure to defeat ISIS?
- American Historical Association backs revision of the AP course in history
- Middle East Scholars and Librarians Call for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions