30 December 2008 | MartinHafer
Great, but I'd really love to see this updated
This is a very poignant documentary that was narrated by Bill Cosby back in 1968. The film is about Black identity and pride and how they have been compromised due to omissions in history books as well as Hollywood's depiction of Black America. Both of these problems essentially boil down to a disdain for Black culture and identity. This film came out in the 1960s when Black Americans were no longer accepting that they were second best--a very positive step in our society.
I first saw this film when I was in middle school back in the late 1970s. Sadly, our teacher tried showing it to us because the film had many wonderful lessons but what I remembered most about the film is how the White students laughed at the images of Blacks in films, such as from BIRTH OF A NATION or the antics of Steppin Fetchit. Now, thirty years later I was able to get my own copy of this documentary--no small feat considering how obscure it now is.
I was very impressed by this film and liked the overall message. Bill Cosby is a reasonable man but it's also nice to see that at times, he's angry as he talks about the de-humanization of Black men and women in films--with "Aunt Jemima" images, the myth of the "happy slave" as well as the "slow-witted Negro". All this is very poignant and can't help but make his point. If anything, this documentary actually was somewhat gentle in its condemnation of these films--and made no mention of the worst offenders, cartoons (such as the horrible COAL BLACK AND DE SEBBEN Dwarfs).
Also seen in the film is some of the counter-reaction to these images in the Black community--such as a school intended to "brain-wash Black kids" (Cosby's words) so they won't buy into the lies that make a Black man any less of a man. Sadly, however, this film was made in 1968 and there is so much to the Black Power movement and the 1970s that couldn't have been covered. In fact, there's so much from the 80s and 90s and today that couldn't be covered. This film is aching to be remade by Cosby, as racism is seen in different forms today and there are still unnecessary divisions in our country that need to be identified and addressed. He's a very, very smart and talented man and I would love to see his take today on what's going on right and wrong between Black and White America.