Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

Blacks in Film and Television

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Richard Roundtree in Shaft's Big Score!, 1972

Courtesy of MGM/Photofest

The 1970s brought about a new genre in film, the so-called blaxploitation film. Two of the most recognized blaxploitation films were created by a father and son. In 1971 Gordon Parks Sr. wrote and directed Shaft; a year later his son Gordon Parks Jr. released Superfly, one of the most controversial films of its time. Superfly; was created on a limited budget with an all-black cast and crew. It went on to make tens of millions of dollars and would be highly criticized for its portrayal of crime, urban life, and machismo. While the blaxploitation films, as the named suggests, capitalized on exploiting preconceptions of blackness and racialized stereotypes of criminality, sexuality and masculinity, the films in 1970s heralded an explosion of black presence in Hollywood films in acting, producing, and directing. Blaxploitation films helped shape the careers of performers such as Pam Grier, Fred Williamson, and Richard Roundtree, as well as the soundtrack composers Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield.

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