The next post in the series: Reversing the Culture of Ignorance…
The film “The Help” has been a big financial success but not without its criticisms. I have been very vocal (check me out on twitter @diggame) about my disagreement with another film about black people being in a subservient situation. I understand it is a film that is a fictional account of history but why is it the films we always get about historical accounts have to be those movies? I understand it is a part of our history and that story needs to be told but is that the only story that needs to be told? I started thinking about it even deeper in the aspect that film companies will not begin to show some balance in the movies made unless we support all types of movies that display the many perspectives of African-American experience.
I have read where some women have said that “The Help” was an inspiring film for black women. I totally disagree with that statement but I have decided instead of going down a road just trashing the film I have decided to give an alternative of some black women who need to be shown in film, who are inspiring, and have a very interesting story to tell.
Bessie Coleman was an American civil aviator. She was the first female pilot of African-American descent Though Eugene Jacques Bullard is the first black combat pilot in 1917, Bessie Coleman and the first person of African-American descent to hold an international pilot license.
Coleman took French language class at the Berlitz school in Chicago, and then traveled to Paris on November 20, 1920. Coleman learned to fly in a Nieuport Type 82 biplane, with “a steering system that consisted of a vertical stick the thickness of a baseball bat in front of the pilot and a rudder bar under the pilot’s feet.” On June 15, 1921, Coleman became not only the first African-American woman to earn an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, but the first African American woman in the world to earn an aviation pilot’s license.
In September 1921, she became a media sensation when she returned to the United States. “Queen Bess,” as she was known, was a highly popular draw for the next five years. Invited to important events and often interviewed by newspapers, she was admired by both blacks and whites. She primarily flew Curtiss JN-4 ”Jenny” biplanes and army surplus aircraft left over from the war. In Los Angeles, California, she broke a leg and three ribs when her plane stalled and crashed on February 22, 1922. She made her first appearance in an American airshow on September 3, 1922, at an event honoring veterans of the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment of World War I. Held at Curtiss Field on Long Island near New York City and sponsored by her friend Robert S. Abbott founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper, the show billed Coleman as “the world’s greatest woman flier” and featured aerial displays by eight other American ace pilots. Six weeks later she returned to Chicago to deliver a stunning demonstration of daredevil maneuvers—including figure eights, loops, and near-ground dips—to a large and enthusiastic crowd at the Checkerboard Airdrome.
She would die in 1926 in a tragic aerial accident practice for an airshow in Jacksonville, FL.(source)
Ida B. Wells
Ida B. Wells was an African American journalist, newspaper editor and, with her husband, newspaper owner Ferdinand L. Barnett, an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented lynching in the United States, showing how it was often a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites. She was active in the women’s rights and the women’s suffrage movement, establishing several notable women’s organizations. In addition to her skills as a rhetorician, Wells was a persuasive speaker, and traveled internationally on lecture tours.
Together with Frederick Douglass and other black leaders, she organized a black boycott of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, for its failure to collaborate with the black community on exhibits representing African-American life. Wells, Douglass, Irvine Garland Penn and Ferdinand L. Barnett wrote sections of a pamphlet to be distributed there: “Reasons Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition” detailed the progress of blacks since their arrival in America and the workings of Southern lynchings. Wells later reported to Albion W. Tourgée that copies of the pamphlet had been distributed to more than 20,000 people at the fair.
Wells’ 1892 speech, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases is important as a historical document and as the initiating event in what became a social movement. In this speech she eloquently displayed the issues and problems that blacks were enduring behind the terrorism of lynching. She was one of the leading women in exposing the horrors of lynching and displaying to the masses that just because slavery was over didn’t mean that oppression in America was over.(source)
Angela Davis is an American political activist, scholar, and author. Davis was most politically active during the late 1960s through the 1970s and was associated with the Communist Party USA, the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panther Party. Prisoner rights have been among her continuing interests; she is the founder of “Critical Resistance”, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex. She is presently a retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is the former director of the university’s Feminist Studies department. Her research interests are in feminism, African American studies, critical theory, Marxism, popular music and social consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons.
Her membership in the Communist Party led to Ronald Reagan’s request in 1969 to have her barred from teaching at any university in the State of California. She was tried and acquitted of suspected involvement in the Soledad brothers’ August 1970 abduction and murder of Judge Harold Haley in Marin County, California.
On August 7, 1970 Jonathan Jackson, a heavily armed, seventeen year old African American high school student gained control over a courtroom in Marin County, California. Once in the courtroom, Jackson armed the black defendants and took Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors as hostages.
As Jackson transported the hostages and two black convicts away from the courtroom, the police began shooting at the vehicle. The judge, one of the jurors, the prosecutor, and the three black men were killed in the melee. Davis had purchased the firearms used in the attack, including the shotgun used to kill Haley, which had been purchased two days prior and sawed-off. She had also written numerous letters found in the prison cell of one of the murderers. Since California considers “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense… principals in any crime so committed,” San Marin County Superior Judge Peter Allen Smith charged Davis with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley” and issued a warrant for her arrest. Hours after the judge issued the warrant on August 14, 1970 a massive attempt to arrest Angela Davis began. On August 18, 1970, four days after the initial warrant was issued, FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover made Angela Davis the third woman and the 309th person to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List.
In 1972, she was tried and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The fact that she owned the guns used in the crime was judged not sufficient to establish her responsibility for the plot. Her experience as a prisoner in the US played a key role in convincing her to fight against the “prison industrial complex” that exists in the US.
Angela Davis has continued to teach and be apart of activism concerning the death penalty, socialism, democracy, feminism, and race.(source)
Once again I have no problem with the African-American experience being told but I would love to see the multitudes of the black experience displayed. If we can have movies shown “The Help” is there any way for us to show black women such as the women I have highlighted above in film as well? We just have to look at the perspective of our visual images as more than just entertainment because what we see and hear CAN have an effect on how a person can internally look at themselves. I mean I am still waiting for Octavia Butler’s Kindred to be made into a feature film but you know what I may have to work on that screenplay myself and make it happen because if we don’t decide to take any control of our media images who will?