‘Shaft’ on Independence Day: The Film That Changed History on July 4th Weekend 1971

This weekend marks the 49th anniversary of the release of “Shaft.” Released in 1971, it grossed about $90 million in adjusted prices — a huge success, more than 25 times its cost.

More importantly, it forced studios to acknowledge the Black audience segment that was long taken for granted.By 1969, Hollywood studio filmmaking was 105 years old.

There were Black directors, but they were too few and far between.

The first Black director was silent filmmaker Oscar Michaeux, whose parents were former slaves.

In the sound era, the first Black director was Spencer Williams, an actor best known as Andy of Amos n’ Andy.

And while films in the 1960s began to tell Black stories such as “Lilies of the Field” and “A Raisin In the Sun,” they inevitably reflected white perspectives and denied Black audiences the full range of portrayals of their life experiences.In 1971, the Independence Day weekend release date for “Shaft” didn’t suggest high hopes.

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