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Rollins I Introduction to Special In-Depth Section Peter C. Rollins Editor-in-Chief The Black Image in Film y \^_^/ he recent awards presented by the Academy of Motion PictureArts and Sciences ("the Oscars") were reprehended by many because black filmmakers, actors, and technicians did not receive expected recognition. Anti-semitic comments by such celebrities as Marlon Brando (on the LarryKing Show) did not advance the cause of understanding or encourage positive recognition. We have much to learn about the black image in film and television-not only in relation to past images, but how the current images are woven into the attitudes of contemporary America. In the opening essay for this section, Prof. Mark Winoker explores the background and fallout of the images in a specific film, The Green Pastures (1936). His understanding of the available myths and stereotypes, together with close reading, reveals The Green Pastures paradox-it is at once a forum for black culture and a perpetuation of anachronistic stereotypes of the state of the black church in America. The black contribution to America's fighting forces has been of great interest during the recent celebrations of our great victory in World War II. Documentaries about the Tuskeegee airmen, plus an HBO docudrama, have reminded Americans of the essential contribution of blacks to the victory. For example, we now know that, during the Battle of the Bulge, the infusion of fresh troops was essential to stopping the German offensive and, under the command of General Patton, black soldiers recorded some major accomplishments. Just this spring, those contributions were recognized by President Clinton in the presentation of Medal of Honor medals-for the first time-to black heroes. One of them came from a small Oklahoma town not far from my home. In the Fall, we will have a special "massing of the colors" ceremony to commemorate the sacrifice of Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers, a man who fought and died at the very tip of Patton's mechanized arrow. 4 I Film & History The Black Image in Film | Special In-Depth Section Liberators (1992) was a documentary designed to honor the black contribution in WWII, but the film went beyond the facts. In her scholarly study, Pamela Calvert places the production in its 1990s context and shows how the forces at work in the pressure-cooker environment of New York City affected the work of the two collaborators. Calvert's article also reminds us of the need to have real historians-as opposed to media typesdirectly involved in the entire range of production. We of Film & History have been reminded of this need many times over the years-in articles by Patrick Griffin, Richard Raack, and Peter Rollins—but continuing violations of basic historical methodology demand scholarly whistle-blowing. At the present time, Liberators-bolh the film and the book versions-have been withdrawn from circulation by the publisher and the network involved. This action settles the immediate problem; yet the danger in all this controversy is that we lose perspective on the real issue: there are no standards in the vast wasteland of television when it comes to historical films. Too often, the need for funding and ratings dictates that drama wins out over information. A Soldier's Story(1984) is a fine, tense film which explores the story within the story for black soldiers in WWII-and at other times. During our history, minorities have often gambled on the possibility that their willingness to fight for the nation would win them recognition and acceptance. Anyone who has been in combat training or in war knows the tensions and stresses of the role; scholar Jerome Long (a US Army veteran of the Korean era) argues that the virtue of this film is its exploration of the "second front" for blacks, the humiliation of service in a military strictly segregated. Frank Capra's film The Negro Soldier (1944) puts the best possible face on the hopes of the nation and its blacks for equity, but A Soldier's Story is a more realistic portrait of the inner struggle for America's blacks in uniform. All three essays are models of research and committed scholarship; together, they...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9922
Print ISSN
0360-3695
Pages
pp. 4-5
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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