The 1970s was one of the most prolific times for Black movies. There were an enormous number of African-American films made during this period. Many of the Black movies made during the 70s have become known as Blaxploitation films.
Before 1970 blacks were portrayed in film as train porters, waitresses and shoe-shine boys. That changed in 1971 with Melvin Van Peebles’ groundbreaking film, Sweetback’s Baadassss Song. Sweetback was the first “commercially successful” black-theme film that showed a black man coming out on top over the white establishment.
While many black exploitation films were box office successes, they also fueled the public’s perception of blacks as cold-hearted heroes, gangsters, drug dealers, pimps and thugs. Black actors were being exploited by playing these roles.