TitleHollywood's invisible men
NameReich, Elizabeth (author), Edwards, Brent Hayes (chair), Eng, David L. (internal member), Belton, John (internal member), Flitterman-Lewis, Sandy (internal member), Massood, Paula (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectLiteratures in English,
Black men in motion pictures,
Soldiers in motion pictures
DescriptionHollywood’s Invisible Men: Mobilizing the Black Soldier in American Cinema provides a genealogy of the black nationalist icon made famous by Blaxploitation heroes
Sweet Sweetback and Shaft, locating its origins in the new, dignified image of the black soldier that appeared in WWII Hollywood films as part of the Roosevelt Government mandate to increase black enlistment. Focusing on a figure that has been essential in
literary and historical studies of African America, but to date absent from film scholarship, I trace the transformation of this filmic figure in a variety of incarnations and socio-political contexts, ranging from wartime propaganda, to postwar dramas, to
Vietnam Era “guerrilla” productions. In these films, the evolving depictions of the black solider narrate the ideological labor performed by the black body in America between WWII and the end of the Vietnam War: pacifying racial conflict in the US; creating benevolent images of America’s imperialism abroad; and articulating black America’s revolutionary nationalism and diasporic imagination. The malleability and potence of this figure also enabled the cinema to provide a public sphere for national debates about (but not limited to) blacks in the military, racial integration, and black nationalist militancy that ultimately led to the radical changes of the late Civil Rights Movement. I label this forum a “reconstructed public sphere” because this new, cinematic black public was in fact a visual incarnation and transformation of what Michael Warner has called a counterpublic—one in which
wartime and post-war viewers learned new modes of spectatorship and collaborated on a visual reconstruction of black collective history and political identity. One of the few studies of the interrelationship of Hollywood and non-industry black filmmakers during the Civil Rights Movement, Hollywood’s Invisible Men also revises the record of black artistry and representation in shaping a postwar national
cinema in the U.S., in part by making use of archival research on “lost” films. This dissertation thus not only explores the reconstructive capacities of the figure of the black soldier, it also literally reconstructs black cinema’s history and presence in the representational struggles of the Civil Rights Movement.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Elizabeth Reich
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.