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Black City Cinema

African American Urban Experiences In Film

Paula Massood

Publication Year: 2003

In Black City Cinema, Paula Massood shows how popular films reflected the massive social changes that resulted from the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural South to cities in the North, West, and Mid-West during the first three decades of the twentieth century. By the onset of the Depression, the Black population had become primarily urban, transforming individual lives as well as urban experience and culture.Massood probes into the relationship of place and time, showing how urban settings became an intrinsic element of African American film as Black people became more firmly rooted in urban spaces and more visible as historical and political subjects. Illuminating the intersections of film, history, politics, and urban discourse, she considers the chief genres of African American and Hollywood narrative film: the black cast musicals of the 1920s and the "race" films of the early sound era to blaxploitation and hood films, as well as the work of Spike Lee toward the end of the century. As it examines such a wide range of films over much of the twentieth century, this book offers a unique map of Black representations in film.

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. viii

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pp. ix-xi

Expressing my gratitude to the individuals and institutions who supported me is both the most daunting and the most pleasurable part of this whole process. It's daunting because it has made me realize the unlimited generosity of the many colleagues, friends, and family members who helped made...

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Introduction: Migrations, Movies, and African American Cities on the Screen

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pp. 1-9

During the last half of the twentieth century, African American film was increasingly identified as city film in the public imagination. Its narratives were commonly assigned to specific urban settings, with New York's Harlem and Brooklyn neighborhoods associated with African American East Coast...

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1. The Antebellum Idyll and Hollywood's Black-Cast Musicals

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pp. 11-43

From the bondage of the Middle Passage to present-day reports of the return of many northern blacks to the South, movement has defined the African American presence in the United States. This presence has also been linked to the terminal points of these movements and shifts, whether they are...

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2. Harlem is Heaven: City Motifs in Race Films from the Early Sound Era

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pp. 45-77

African American film production dates to 1912 and the release of the Foster Photoplay Company's The Railroad Porter, but African American subjects and subject matter can be traced back to the beginnings of American filmmaking. As early as 1895, Thomas Edison and his assistants filmed and...

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3. Cotton in the City: The Black Ghetto, Blaxploitation, and Beyond

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pp. 79-116

The release of Stormy Weather in 1943 was the beginning of Hollywood's shift from the segregated geography and the static etiology of the antebellum idyll toward a more apparently integrated cinema. This shift resulted less from an overt desire to change than from a combination of industrial...

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4. Welcome to Crooklyn: Spike Lee and the Rearticulation of the Black Urbanscape

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pp. 117-143

For a brief period spanning the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, the visualization of an African American cinematic urbanscape was inextricably linked to blaxploitation and other black-focused films. This city space, which I have referred to as a black ghetto chronotope, was characterized by precise...

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5. Out of the Ghetto, into the Hood: Changes in the Construction of Black City Cinema

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pp. 145-174

During the early 1990s, a new group of African American city films appeared. Variously described as "ghettocentric," "New Jack," "New Black Realism," or hood films, films such as New Jack City (Mario Van Peebles, 1991), Straight Out of Brooklyn (Matty Rich, 1991), Boyz N the Hood (John Singleton,...

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6. Taking the A-Train: The City, the Train, and Migration in Spike lee's Clockers

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pp. 175-205

While British filmmaker Reece Auguiste refers specifically to the sociopolitical and the historical circumstances influencing the members of the London-based Black Audio Film Collective, in the epigraph above he stresses movement as one of the defining thematic concerns of black diasporan...

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Epilogue: New Millennium Minstrel Shows? African American Cinema in the Late 1990s

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pp. 207-225

In Spike Lee's Bamboozled (2000), television writer Pierre "Peerless" Delacroix (Damon Wayans) attempts to get himself fired from his job at a fledgling television network by writing what he believes to be the most offensive show possible, Mantan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show, a variety...


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pp. 227-255


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pp. 257-268

E-ISBN-13: 9781439905654
Print-ISBN-13: 9781592130030

Publication Year: 2003