The History of Black Lesbian Cinema

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It’s about a year old now, but whatever: this primer on black lesbian cinema is too good not to read.

Salamishah Tillet walks us through twenty years of movies by and about queer women of color, from Watermelon Woman, a mockumentary about a 1930s actress playing mammy roles, to last year’s radiant indie film Pariah.

A preview:

In 1993 filmmaker Michelle Parkerson wrote about the birth of a “new generation” of gay and lesbian filmmakers of color whose work challenged stereotypes and stigmas about black lesbian and gay lives on the big screen. Filmmaker Yvonne Welbon, founder and director of Sisters in Cinema and curator of the “Sisters in the Life” black lesbian transmedia project, calls 1991-1996 the “golden age” of a black queer cinema.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →