Today we are celebrating Juneteenth—the day in 1865 when Union Army General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas, declaring that all slaves in the United States were now free. And what better way for the Ars Technica culture desk to mark the occasion than by offering a sampling of 25 films from the last 100 years, produced by, directed by, written, and/or starring leading black professionals in the entertainment industry?
This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive overview or a definitive list. I’ve just picked a few films to highlight from different time periods, spanning several different genres: everything from early “race films,” jazz musicals, and blaxploitation, to buddy-cop action, ensemble comedies, superhero films, historical dramas, quirky indie films, gritty urban dramas, and so forth.
There are far more titles from 2000 on. That’s partly because so much of film history has been effectively “whitewashed;” partly because the studio system that dominated the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood put a chokehold on diversity for decades; and partly because there are now so many more such films to choose from. More than ever, black producers, directors, writers, and actors are finding the means to tell their own stories—and finding a receptive, enthusiastic audience for those stories.