Google+

Black Male Frames

 

Black Male Frames

African-Americans in a Century of Hollywood Cinema, 1903-2003

by Roland Leander Williams, Jr.

Syracuse University Press

Hardcover, $34.95

218 pages, Illustrated

ISBN: 978-0-8156-3382-2

Book Review by Kam Williams

 

“Black Male Frames charts the development and shifting popularity of two stereotypes of black male masculinity in popular American film: the shaman and the scoundrel… [The book] identifies the origins of these roles in an America where black 51SvrgtlF7Lmen were forced either to defer or to defy their white masters.

These figures recur in the stories America tells about its black men, from the fictional Jim Crow… to W.E.B. Du Bois. [The author] argues that these two extremes persist today in modern Hollywood, where actors… must cope with and work around such limited options… These men are rewarded for their portrayal of the stereotypes most needed to put America’s ongoing racial anxieties at ease.”

— Excerpted from the Bookjacket

 

In the antebellum era, when minstrel shows took the U.S. by storm as the country’s first popular form of entertainment, African-American males were portrayed by white men in blackface as being either servile or surly. Those polar opposite stereotypes, which served a critical function during slavery, remained the only type of roles available to actual black actors from the dawn of the film industry all the way into the 21st Century.

 

That is the contention of Roland Leander Williams, Jr. who teaches English at Temple University. In his groundbreaking book, Black Male Frames: African-Americans in a Century of Hollywood Cinema, 1903-2003, Professor Williams sets out to show how black male movie characters have basically been either submissive or subversive to suit the fluctuating needs of the dominant culture.

He sets about proving his thesis by closely examining the careers of five African-American acting icons, starting with Sam Lucas (1839-1916), the first black film star. He was not only the first black to play Uncle Tom onscreen, but he was also the first to portray the deferential character onstage.

Unfolding chronologically, the opus’ entry about Lucas is followed by a chapter devoted to Paul Robeson (1898-1976) entitled “Renaissance Man.” There, we learn that, in sharp contrast to Lucas, Robeson became typecast in a way which strengthened the “impression of blacks as primitives” gaining popularity in the late Twenties.

That image was reversed a generation later, as personified by Sidney Poitier in his Oscar-winning performance in Lilies of the

Author Roland Leander Williams, Jr.

Author Roland Leander Williams, Jr.

Field. Then, in response to the Black Power Movement came the return of the relatively-assertive rebel as played by Denzel Washington, who won his first Academy Award for Glory in 1990. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings was Morgan Freeman, who languished in the shadows “until the age of multiculturalism arrived, when he took a role (in Driving Miss Daisy) that once again raised the ghost of Uncle Tom.”

As far as the future, the author concludes that only time will tell whether Hollywood will finally stop marginalizing black males as either servants or malcontents and welcome them into the movie mainstream by casting them in a full range of roles without regard to skin color. If not, Professor Williams expresses a sincere concern that history might simply continue to repeat itself.

 

To order a copy of Black Male Frames, visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0815633823/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

 

Entertainment

John Barrowman Thinks Casting Agents Should be Deaf, Dumb and Mostly Blind

  John Barrowman Thinks Casting Agents Should be Deaf, Dumb and Mostly Blind   By Jeremy Bamidele Science fiction, fantasy, and in lesser cases horror films have been ahead of their times in addressing social issues. This is partly due to their ability to disassociate themselves from the normalcy of reality. In fantasy, racial wars and prejudices are represented through orc vs. elves. Such disassociations allow them to seriously address issues while … [Read More its Good for You...]

Books

Blood Brothers

  Blood Brothers The Fatal Friendship between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith Basic Books Hardcover, $28.99 392 pages, Illustrated ISBN: 978-0-465-07970-4 Book Review by Kam Williams “[This book] is the story of how Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali and the central role Malcolm X played in his life. It is a tale of friendship and brotherhood, love and deep affection. It is also a story of deceit, betrayal, and violence--inside and … [Read More its Good for You...]

Art

ART EXHIBITION: 150 Years After The Civil War

  Cynthia Groya 150 Years After The Civil War: A Contemporary Perspective January 10 - March 6, 2016 Artist's Reception: Sunday, January 24, 3:00 - 5:00 pm Nassau Club 6 Mercer Street  Princeton, NJ 08540 The ideas reflected in Groya's paintings express a conversation about struggle for equal rights in our culture, in our time. The origin of this struggle can be traced to The Civil War in our country, which ended 150 years ago. The … [Read More its Good for You...]

Real Estate

New Home Sales Jump in April

  New Home Sales Jump in April By Burt Carey Sales of new homes hit their highest rate since 2008 in April, according to the Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau. April sales increased 16.6 percent over March figures, which correlates to a seasonally adjusted rate of 619,000 home sales projected for the year. The median price of those new homes was $321,000, the highest median price ever recorded. That’s up 9.7 percent from sales one year ago. The … [Read More its Good for You...]

Lifestyle

The “Grand” Role

  The “Grand” Role by Amy Lignor   There are tons of parenting magazines out there that offer support, advice, and more to the expectant parent or parents. And, I think we can all agree, there are millions of people who wish to offer up advice on everything from how to treat said baby to how you should raise them, educate them, talk to them – heck, there are millions who will be more than happy to advise you on just about every aspect of your baby’s future. … [Read More it Good for You...]

Outdoors

Yamaha Propeller Selector, Endless Propeller Solutions

  Yamaha Propeller Selector, Endless Propeller Solutions   The Yamaha Propeller selection page on Yamaha’s webpage is a great tool for every boat owner as a tool not only to make sure the correct prop is on their boat but also gives the ability and freedom to change the prop with ease, depending on the application. Everyone knows the equipment used for bass fishing is not the same for chasing tuna offshore, and the same logic applies to selecting a prop. At … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

Tiger Woods Opts Out of U.S. Open, Quicken Loans

  Tiger Woods Opts Out of U.S. Open, Quicken Loans By Burt Carey Tiger Woods isn’t ready to stage a comeback just yet. The 14-time major champion sent messages via Twitter and his website Tuesday that he would not be competing at either the U.S. Open at Oakmont next week or the PGA Tour’s Quicken Loans tournament the following week. "While I continue to work hard on getting healthy, I am not physically ready to play in this year's U.S. Open and the Quicken … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

Feds Eyeing a Crackdown on Predatory Payday Lenders

  Feds Eyeing a Crackdown on Predatory Payday Lenders By Burt Carey The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is proposing new regulations designed to place limits on excessively high-interest loans issued by short-term lenders. The CFPB proposal would require so-called payday lenders to prove borrowers have an ability to repay a loan by the time it comes due – usually by the borrower’s next pay period – without having to renew the loan or take out a new … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

The New “IN” Thing Just Happens to be “UP”

  The New “IN” Thing Just Happens to be “UP” by Amy Lignor   Whether you choose South Africa or Yankee, Connecticut, the new “in” places to travel and lay your head just happen to be based on the one “resort” that Tarzan was so proud of. Yes. You guessed it…the swank, high-class, relaxing treehouse. All over the globe people have decided to sink money (a great deal of it) into creating one of the oddest choices to stay architecturally. An “odd” choice that just … [Read More its Good for You...]

Google+