Institute of African American Affairs
New York University

Reflections on the Post:
Hollywood’s Representation of Race in the Obama Era

A Spring 2015 Lecture Series

MelvilleMelvin Van Peebles

Walter(Photo by Marcia Wilson)
Walter Mosley


Monday, April 6th, 2015
Melvin Van Peebles and Walter Mosley in conversation
TIME: 6:30 pm
LOCATION: Global Center-NYU, Grand Hall, 5th floor, Rm 573
238 Thompson Street (between West 3rd Street and Washington Square South) New York, NY

Free and open to the public. Space is limited.
Please RSVP at (212) 998-IAAA (4222).


Melvin Van Peebles is an actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, novelist and composer. His first feature film, The Story of a Three-Day Pass (1968) was based on a novel he wrote and on the strength of this film, Columbia Pictures asked Van Peebles to direct a satirical comedy-fantasy on the topic of black-white stereotyping, Watermelon Man (1970). His acclaimed 1971 film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, is credited for heralding in a new era of African American focused films. Van Peebles has also developed, written and acted in a number of movie and TV projects, frequently in collaboration with his actor/director son Mario Van Peebles. In 2005, Van Peebles was the subject of a documentary entitled How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It).

Walter Mosley is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than 43 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 23 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. As a film writer and producer, he is known for Always Outnumbered (1998), Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)—based on his books— The Middle Passage (2000), The Law and Mr. Lee (2003) and others. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Reflections on the Post: Hollywood’s Representation of Race in the Obama Era
Spring 2015

This lecture series invites a writer/artist/critic to select a single film or a group of films that he/she feel exemplifies an Obama Era Hollywood representation of stereotypical blackness, or a post-racial society. The series began in the fall 2014 semester with speakers including Stanley Crouch and Sapphire.

Those who believe in the theory of post-race would argue that the era of a black president would be the most appropriate time to push beyond frontiers and air all issues related to race. For others, the power relations have not changed much, and race is still subject to power and capitalism. Considering the box-office success of recent Hollywood films, (The Butler, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lincoln, Django Unchained, Precious, 12 Years a Slave, and others), some critics may see these films as groundbreaking in their representation of racial issues in America today. Others may describe the same films as controversial, because of their failure to challenge long held racial stereotypes. Some may even define these films as post-racial or as Hollywood’s return to race for profit.

If we were to follow the logic of Dr. Frantz Fanon, a post-white phase would stipulate that the white patient has overcome his/her anti-black-superiority complex; and similarly, the diagnostic of a post-black moment would be evident when the black subject, in a dominant white society, has succeeded in controlling the neurosis resulting from the black-inferiority complex vis-à-vis whiteness. The citizens in a post-white and post-black society embrace a new humanity, unimpeded by color hierarchies and privileges; they go about building their society, their relations on equal bases; they have equal access to their inheritance, and a multiplicity of identities with their differences constituting the beauty and health of their society.

Speakers will engage these notions and others creating a dialogue with the NYU community and the general public.

Click here for Reflection on the Post Fall 2014 Event Page