Films about slavery: Can’t part with them, won’t get acknowledged without them

Lindsay Keener | Staff Writer

In a world full of controversial issues and sensitive topics, films on slavery tend to garner negative attention from its audiences.

With criticisms spanning from an absence of historical facts to the excessive brutality shown on screen, slave movies and their importance are continually being called into question by audiences alike.

Following the release of “Harriet,” a film based on the inspiring life of the American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, moviegoers raved and ranted about the debut of another motion picture on slavery. This response isn’t exclusive to “Harriet”; the critique ranges to various films with a focus on the torture Blacks felt for centuries.

Hampton University senior Destiny Woosley, has a complicated relationship with slave movies.

“I believe that it is important for the film industry to create films based on black revolutionaries, such as ‘Birth of a Nation’ and ‘Harriet,’” Woosley said. “I do not, however, believe that it is as important to create films based solely on the enslavement of black people. Though this may aid in white guilt, it can simultaneously affect black people in a negative way.”

Similar to other media outlets, the film industry has gotten its share of criticism over a lack of diversity and inclusion in movies. In regard to slave movies, a lot of the outrage comes from those who want to be represented in films that don’t showcase the torture blacks faced during slavery.

Senior Elijah Banks is of the opinion that the reason behind why the film is being made is what matters most.

“I believe most black people have issues with these movies because of where the intent comes from,” Banks said. “Movies that touch on such sensitive topics should come from people who understand the plight of what it means to be black and take the time to put together a film that sheds light and tells a detailed look into this time period. I understand dramatization sells, but at what cost?”

Senior Aaron Brown believes black people deserve to see films that represent history, no matter how atrocious it is.

“Yes, it is hard to watch so many films that depict black trauma, but if they can educate and shed light to more people on the true stories of slavery, then it should happen, as long as those aren’t the few types of movies where black people lead,” Brown said.

While some find the stories of slavery to be hard to digest, Woosley found empowerment from the tales displayed on the screen.

“These movies make me realize that we are strong as a people,” the senior said. “When I think about the slaves who worked those fields so that white people could make money, the enslaved women who cared for the children of their enslavers, I’m reminded that my people are powerful people, and without them, this country would not be what it is today.”

As to be expected with any delicate matter, the opinions on slavery movies and their importance in today’s society varies from person to person. Ultimately, the choice to watch a film depicting slavery is up to the viewers themselves. What will you choose?

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