In the mid 1980s Spike Lee opened the door for many African-American filmmakers. It is sometimes easy to forget those who laid the groundwork for his success. Ivan Dixon’s 1973 film The Spook Who Sat by the Door takes a look at discrimination within the CIA. Haile Gerima, the first important African-American female director, gave us Bush Mama (1975), which details the difficult life of a single mother.
Charles Burnett’s classic Killer of Sheep (1977) provides a glimpse of life in the Los Angeles Watts district. Melvin Van Peeples’ Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song (1971) exploded out of the Blaxploitation era of the late sixties and early seventies.
For more Duke Libraries resources on African-Americans in film check out the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture online exhibit: From Blackface to Blaxploitation: Representations of African Americans in Film and Lilly filmographies: Early African-American Cinema on DVD and African-American History Documentaries.