Lena Waithe (American Screenwriter, Producer, and Actress) made headlines claiming that we are in a resurgence of a Black Renaissance in Hollywood. Hollywood has experienced recent success with movies like Black Panther and Get Out, and with scripted shows like “Black-ish”, “Scandal”, and “Atlanta”. These successes demonstrate that audiences are loving the surge of black entertainment. This leaves the question, ” Are we experiencing a Black Renaissance in Hollywood?“
The Black Renaissance started on the streets of Harlem. It was the immediate outcome of the Great Migration. In the 20th century, Black people sought equal opportunities and a better quality of life. They migrated from the South to the Midwest and Northeast but most settled in Harlem, NY.
The “New Negro Movement” began to make Harlem the Black Mecca of culture. Nurturing the minds of African American icons like Langston Hughes, a poet, novelist, and social activist, and Josephine Baker, a singer that amazed spectators from stages all over the world. In addition, Jacob Lawrence would gain success at the age of 23 for his 60-panel Migration Series.
Golden Age of Black Cinema
The 90s were the golden age for black movies. The number of black movies created during that time was significant. According to The Guardian, Black TV content transitioned to mainstream media. Will Smith was a pillar with “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. With a couple of more black actors that followed his lead. Including, and “Living Single“ “Martin”, and “The Jamie Foxx Show.
It was a new era for Black people in the entertainment industry. Giving us the ability to show their history from their own point of view.
Currently, with the surge of new black content. There have been debates on whether we are in the middle of a new era of a Black Renaissance. Black-centered projects produced by a predominantly black team are being noted and celebrated more than ever. Black narratives centered around black culture are no longer being pushed aside, while still leaving room for progress. According to Thinkprocess.org, Shonda Rhimes show, “Scandal starring Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope showed Hollywood that the world was ready for a strong, black leading lady.
Currently, there have been more opportunities for black creators to produce their own content. Comedian Robin Thede created a sketch comedy show called, “A Black Lady Sketch Show”. It made history as the first sketch show performed by a predominantly African American female cast. Also, the hit television show “Power”, created by 50 Cent, helped Starz gain more traction and viewers.
Currently, Netflix has made space for Black creators to have a platform on their network as well with shows like their own American comedy-drama series, “Dear White People”. Equally, Kenya Barris (American writer, producer, and actor) landed a 100 million dollar multi-year producer deal with Netflix. To add, Michelle and Barack Obama scored a multi-year deal to create content as well.
Tyler Perry also has used his resources in Atlanta by turning a former confederate military base into one of the largest production studios in the US. Tyler Perry Studios has had high grossing films like Black Panther filmed on the property. Making history to be the first black-owned studio lot. Gen-Z stars like Marsai Martin has also made history in becoming the youngest person to get a first-look deal at Universal.
With all of the achievements and success we have seen over the recent years in Black Hollywood, one can say we are currently witnessing a new Black Renaissance. Black creators have been doing a great job of putting together projects with and for Black people. However, we no longer need it to be called a Renaissance. It needs to be the norm.