The 25 Most Important Films on Race

Look around, and you'll see how African Americans have emerged as the big screen's most reliable stars. Will Smith is the one demonstrable megastar. Morgan Freeman's quiet dignity gets him designated as the face of God and the soul of humanity. And the achievements of blacks are regularly honored by Hollywood. In the past seven years, blacks have won Academy Awards in every acting category. Halle Berry took Best Actress for Monster's Ball, Freeman Best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby, Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls. In Best Actor, three of the last six Oscars have gone to African Americans: Denzel Washington for Training Day, Jamie Foxx for Ray and Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland. In these glamorous categories, blacks have achieved a kind of parity. Hmmm, that didn't take long — only 100 years.

To celebrate Black History Month, we've chosen 25 movies to honor the artistry, appeal and determination of African Americans on and behind the screen. The films span nine decades, and reveal a legacy that was tragic before it was triumphant. At first, blacks were invisible; when they were allowed to be seen, it was mostly as derisive comic relief. The 1950s ushered in the age of the noble Negro, in the imposing person of Sidney Poitier — the Jackie Robinson of movies. Only when Hollywood realized that a sizable black audience would pay to see films more reflective of their lives, whether funny, poignant or violent, were they given control of the means of production. Sometimes. The fact remains that of the 25 films here, chosen to cover the widest range of black films, fewer than half were directed by blacks.

(Source: Time)

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