“In the Heat of the Night” is a 1967 murder mystery set in a Southern town that sees a local police chief try to solve the crime with the assistance of a Northern homicide detective. What sets this film apart from your standard crime flick is that it’s layered with social commentary about the changing roles and expectations for Black men during this time. As the characters interact with residents of the town the movie shows how various facets of such a society perceive and react to the presence of a Black man who exudes authority and erudition.
“Menace II Society” is a 1993 film written by Tyger Williams and directed by The Hughes Brothers. I consider “Menace II Society” to be a part of the classic 1990s Black film canon. It contains similar themes to “Boyz in The Hood” and “South Central “by telling the story of young Black men growing up in environments where gangs fill the gaps left by their absent fathers.
In some ways Manchild in the Promised Land is a book about a rambunctious boy and his group of friends coming of age in the 1940s-1950s. In a different place and if Claude Brown were a different race, this could have been an innocent and heart-warming story. But, on the gritty streets of Harlem, Claude’s life is rife with violence, crime, and despair from a young age.
Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell, is a book about “the greatest propaganda campaign of all time”: the concept of black inferiority. In this book, he details the use of racial stereotypes as propaganda to promote the idea of black inferiority and white superiority. The book also explores the lingering effects of slavery and its aftermath on the Black psyche and community.
The Corner by David Simon and Edward Burns is one of the most saddening and inspiring books I’ve ever read. The book follows the lives of residents near the corner of West Fayette and Monroe Streets in West Baltimore over the course of a year in the early 90’s. The authors lay bare how a history of poverty, crime, and drug addiction tore apart the neighborhood, families, and individuals.