American Slavery on Film
by Caron Knauer
February 2023, 193pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-7751-3
$70, £54, 61€, A96
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7752-0
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Highlights the rebellion, resilience, and resistance of enslaved African Americans depicted in major studio and independent films.

A comprehensive and timely source for studying depictions in film of enslaved African Americans and slavery from the Antebellum Period to Emancipation.

American Slavery on Film highlights historical and contemporary depictions in film of the resistance, rebellion, and resilience of enslaved African Americans in the United States from the Antebellum period to Emancipation. In her study of such films as Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1914), a silent movie adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel; the groundbreaking and successful television miniseries Roots (1977); and the Harriet Tubman biopic Harriet (2019), Caron Knauer analyzes how African American slavery has been and continues to be portrayed in major studio blockbusters and independent films alike. Separating the romanticized and unrealistic depictions of slavery from the more accurate but often unflinching portrayals of its horrors, the author covers a wide range of topics, including the impact of slavery on popular culture, the Underground Railroad, Maroon communities, and the Los Angeles Film Rebellion of the 1960s. As a result, this book delivers a comprehensive, readable, and timely examination of enslaved African Americans and slavery in America’s film history.


  • Clarifies historical differences between realistic and unrealistic depictions of enslaved African Americans and slavery in film
  • Highlights films written and directed by well-known and understudied African Americans
  • Studies the historical impact of African American slavery on popular culture in the United States
  • Provides a useful introduction to the Los Angeles Film Rebellion and its history
Caron Knauer teaches English at LaGuardia Community College. She received her master's degree in liberal studies from the CUNY Graduate Center and has published numerous film reviews and several interviews with writers and filmmakers.

Hollywood History

Just exactly how accurate are Hollywood's film and television portrayals of U.S. history? What do these portrayals tell us, not only about the events they depict, but also the time in which they were made? Each volume in this unique reference series is devoted to a single topic or key theme in U.S. history, examining approximately 10 major motion pictures or television productions. Substantial essays summarize each film, provide a historical background of the event or period it depicts, and explain how accurate the film’s depiction is, while also analyzing the cultural context in which the film was made.
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