These Black Activists & Leaders Deserve Movies

by Amen Oyiboke
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February was chosen as Black History Month because it is the birth month of both abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass (Feb. 14) and President Abraham Lincoln (Feb. 12). During this month, we always hear about the two men mentioned above, as well as well-known pioneers such as Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and others. However, there is a countless list of Black women and men in history from around the world who have also contributed to the advancement of human civilization, yet we have heard little to nothing about them, and that's why I think there needs to be more movies about Black activists made by Hollywood.

There are already far too few movies made about Black leaders to begin with, but the ones that do get made tend to focus on the most popular activists like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. It's time for Hollywood and the general public to explore some stories beyond the narratives we've seen already, and dig deeper into the rich history of Black culture. Movies like Hidden Figures and 12 Years A Slave are a start, but we need more motion pictures that are reflective of the rich stories of Black people rarely shown on-screen, such as the individuals below.

Cathay Williams

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Williams was the one and only female Buffalo Soldier, posing as a man named "William Cathay," to enlist in the 38th infantry in 1866, according to Women's Council. She served for two years before a doctor discovered that she was a woman, leading to her discharge. It would be beautiful to see a Black female soldier, who defied the system in order to fight, on the big screen.

Benjamin Singleton

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Benjamin “Pap” Singleton was a former slave from Tennessee who became known as the leader of the "Exoduster Movement.” This movement encouraged African American slaves to move from the rural South to areas with lower land taxes and create communities of their own to avoid racism. Later in his life, Singleton became known for leading more African American migrations from the post-reconstruction South into Kansas. A film telling his story of building towns from the ground up would be so inspiring.

Shirley Chisholm

Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first Black major-party presidential candidate. She was also the first woman ever to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination — and she survived three assassination attempts during her 1972 campaign. It's no wonder that there is buzz that Anika Noni Rose will be producing and starring in a movie about Chisholm.

Miriam Makeba

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Makeba, also known as “Mama Africa,” was a South African singer and civil rights activist known for denouncing apartheid. She was the one of the first artists from Africa to popularize African music around the world, and she is best known for the song "Pata Pata", which was recorded in 1957 but released in the U.S. in 1967. She recorded and toured with popular artists such as Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon, and just like Nina Simone, this woman deserves her life story to be told on the big screen.

Martin Delany

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Delany was an African American abolitionist, physician, and writer born free in Charles Town, West Virginia. He is considered the grandfather of Black nationalism and one of the three first Black people admitted into Harvard Medical School. After he was trained as a physician, he went on to treat patients in Pittsburgh from 1833 to 1854 during the cholera epidemic when many doctors and residents fled the city. Delany's story would make for such a compelling film.

The Soledad Brothers

"The Soledad Brothers" were three African-American prison inmates: George Jackson, the co-founder of the Black Guerilla Family, Fleeta Drumgo, and John Clutchette. The three were falsely accused of beating and throwing a White prison guard from a third-floor tier to his death at California’s Soledad Prison in 1970. The death of the officer came a few days after another White tower guard shot and killed three Black inmates in the courtyard during a fistfight among inmates. Later, the Soledad Brothers led a hunger strike to combat the abusive and inhumane practices they witnessed.

Wally Amos

We need to see images of Black men as successful businessmen, and Amos would be a great choice for a biopic. Before he became known for his Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies, he was a talent agent at the William Morris Agency, where he worked with artist like The Supremes and Simon & Garfunkel. When Amos started his cookie business the company expanded quickly, selling more than $1 million of cookies by its second year, according to its website. The cookie brand went through its ups and downs in the late '80s and Amos found himself making some crucial decisions during the time that'd be great to explore in a movie.

Now that I've schooled you on some great Black history, teach yourself even more lessons. You might be surprised at how many other stories about Black inventors, entrepreneurs and fighters exist out there that deserve your attention.