African-Americans in Modern
The earliest of films historically
cast whites in non-white roles
Elizabeth Taylor in “Cleopatra”
One of the earliest films, Birth of the Nation
(1915) employed blackface on white
actors for African-American actors.
While these casting decision might have been expected during
an era of racial segregation and oppression, Hollywood has
continued to make casting decisions that prefer white actors
over minority actors.
In more recent movie memory…
In 2000's Pay it Forward, Spacey plays a character
named Eugene Simonet, the teacher who inspires
main character Trevor McKinney to change the world.
In the book on which the movie is based, Simonet’s
name is actually Reuben S. Claire, and he's a black
In Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center film (2006), both of
the two characters who rescued the protagonist, Sgt.
Jason Thomas and Sgt. Dave Karnes, were cast as white
actors. Sergeant Thomas is played by William Mapother, a
white actor, however, in real life, he is an African-
The real Sgt. Thomas
And in the few roles that blacks manage to receive, most of them reinforce the
stereotypical view of blacks.
According to the Entman-Rojecki Index of Race
and Media, 89% of Black female movie characters
are shown using vulgar language, while only 17%
of White woman are. Black women are shown as
being violent in movies 56% of the time
compared to the 11% of white women.
People begin to associate being black with
poverty, the “ghetto,” cruelty, crime, and jail, etc.
And even with “quality” movie with black portrayal, Hollywood
producers seem fixated on telling the “Ghetto” story, the “sports
story”, the “slavery” story, and the “racism” story in their movies.
And yes, while these movies
do allow for great artistic
ability to shine through, what
about the other stories?
At what age can their skin
color not become a plot
device, but just a part of
This problem isn’t only affecting African Americans
Even with the small steps Hollywood is taking, there is still resistance.
The recent casting of black actor, Michael B.
Jordan as Johnny Torch created controversy.
Black actress, Quvenzhané Wallis,
was cast into the iconic role of
Black portrayal in media could seriously
use some improvement and a black Annie