Melvin Van Peebles’ Classified X is a 1998 French-US documentary movie written by Melvin Van Peebles, directed by Mark Daniels and narrated by Van Peebles, which details the history of black people in American cinema throughout the 20th century. A unique investigation exposes racist stereotypes of African Americans in the history of cinema, beginning with the silent film era.
One of Melvin Van Peebles’ first films was about an African American black protagonist who refuses to adapt to the daily humiliations of racism. This forever changed the face of African American films.
Classified X has depictions of scaredy-cat comedy-relief types, jungle savages, mammies and minstrels, Melvin Van Peebles sharply observes Caucasian players put on blackface when they felt like doing something extra-stupid gave way after World War II to “The New Negro” — a forced image of white supremacy for the white protagonists, heroes, leading role, and or good guys.
Melvin Van Peebles’ compellingly provides a distressing and detailed understanding of the historical portrayal of African Americans on screen in both Caucasian and black films.
Movie images sustain racism. Over and over, Hollywood made blacks the objects of mockery or fear: African-Americans were illiterate primitives, rustic fools, fumbling servants, or simply outside society. Young blacks began to surrender to these self-images, while whites accepted them comfortably.
Melvin Van Peebles’ uses images from classic American films as a distressing reference of daily racist humiliations. Classified X explains with seriousness and fury why popular culture is still a matter of black and white. Hollywood offered African-Americans a horrendous images of self has been being eaten up by unwitting Americans black and white for decades. Influencing in the negative image of the African American for white society while damaging the self-worth and self-esteem of blacks in American society.
The documentary includes footage from the following movies:
The Birth of a Nation
The Defiant Ones
Gone with the Wind
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
The Jazz Singer
Classified History X