Films about some of history’s most important Black female figures are infrequent, which is why news of a movie on the life of Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman sparked attention this week.
Rumors flew that singer Beyonce Knowles would help develop and star in the film about Baartman, who was taken into the slave trade and put on display in European “freak shows” nearly 200 years ago without her agency.
Immediately following the announcement, Beyonce’s camp denied any involvement in the project, but noted that Baartman’s story should be told. Baartman died at the tender age of 26, possibly from pneumonia, syphilis or alcoholism, BBC reports.
Nevertheless, Baartman’s strength despite being taken against her will for the sheer amusement of others is a story that needs to be on the silver screen with the right team behind it. Here at NewsOne, we came up with other prominent Black women whose stories haven’t been shared in a major motion picture. Find out some of our picks and suggestions on who should play each figure below.
You can let us know your own suggestions in the comment section below.
Zora Neale Hurston
Dream Lead Picks: Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Naomie Harris, Taraji P. Henson
The celebrated author has a complex story far beyond her classic novels. Hurston faced up to racism and ageist behavior by staying persistent. When her father was unable to pay for her to attend school, she lied about her age, attended school for free, and got an education that would take her to Howard University. She also took an interest in the images of dolls for young Black girls and helped create an “anthropologically correct” doll. There have been films that include Hurston, such as Brother to Brother, but the acclaimed writer and artist is well overdue for a solo biopic. [Bio]
Dream Lead Picks: Octavia Spencer, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jill Scott
American opera singer Grace Bumbry is considered one of the finest mezzo-sopranos of her generation, helping her leave an everlasting mark on classical music for African-American artists. Her charming performance of “Habanera” in the 1969 production of Carmen wowed critics, and her powerful vocal chords will go down in musical history. [AAUW Columbia (MO) Branch]
Dream Lead Picks: Zendaya, Kerry Washington, Alexandra Shipp
“If you’re beautiful, they don’t care what color you are.” These were the words of the late Dorothea Towles, the first successful Black supermodel who walked the runways of Paris and stole the hearts of designers like Christian Dior. The Texan was the epitome of beauty and brains, with degrees in biology, drama, and a Masters of Science. Towles broke down racial barriers in Paris in the 1950s after she scored campaigns with Balmain and worked closely with the late Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. In addition to being the first Black woman to appear in a Maybelline print ad, she was also a frequent face on the covers of Jet and Ebony. [Shrimpton Curated]
Dream Lead Picks: Nicole Beharie, Teyonah Parris, Kerry Washington
Author, writer, and social activist Assata Olugbala Shakur’s story has been told in her own words through documentaries and autobiographies. While we know Hollywood may not be ready to tackle Shakur’s story, her fight against racism and prominence in the battle to promote Black history with the Black Panther and Black Liberation groups inspired many of today’s activists. Her story on the treatment of her infamous 1973 case involving the death of a New Jersey state trooper and residence in Cuba could also provide a much-needed contrasting view of the federal justice system.
Amelia Boynton Robinson
Dream Lead Picks: Lorraine Toussaint, Regina King, Tamara Tunie
The late Amelia Boynton Robinson was one of the early leaders of the Civil Rights Movement prior to Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts in the ’60s. She began by organizing voting drives for African-Americans in Alabama in the 1930s. She is also one of the figures who put together the march known as “Bloody Sunday” in Selma. Robinson’s name and image would go down in history that weekend, when a photo of her lying on the ground during the police backlash caught national attention. Her efforts came full circle when she marched with President Barack Obama on the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in March of last year. [Cracked]
Madam Efunroye Tinubu
Dream Lead Picks: Viola Davis, Yaya DeCosta, Yvonne Okoro
Popular West African aristocrat Madam Tinubu was considered one of Nigeria’s biggest adversaries against the invading army of Dahomey. Known as the Iyalode of Egbaland, Tinubu gained financial and social wealth after successfully trading products like arms and salt, and actively participating in the peak of the Atlantic Slave trade. Researchers have disputed Tinubu’s use of slavery. While some say she stopped after discovering her local trades were being taken to North America, others believe she was strongly against abolition.
Because of her royal roots, she was also part of the various stand-offs between political leaders in Nigeria. Her story involving building businesses in a world were women were systemically oppressed is more than enough reason for a film, no? [Original People]
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