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History and Heritage Seminar

“The lynching had to be the best it could be done”: Scenes of Black Slavery and Suffering in American Cinema from Mandingo to Twelve Years a Slave.

History text

A 90 minute seminar on black slavery and suffering in American Cinema delivered by Dr Lydia Plath from the University of Warwick. Dr Plath is a research active scholar in the history of the United States, with a specialism in the history of race relations and racial violence, considered from an interdisciplinary perspective.

  • When: Monday 26 February 2018, 12 pm
  • Location: CTLP04, Teaching and Learning Building, Nottingham Trent University, Clifton Lane, Nottingham, NG11 8NS,
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Event details

Dr Lydia Plath from the University of Warwick presents a talk on black slavery and suffering in American Cinema. Since the era of Blaxploitation films such as Mandingo (Richard Fleischer, 1975), violent scenes of black suffering in films depicting American slavery have become a standard part of the genre. Fleischer explained that his intention in Mandingo was to stop the romanticised image of slavery perpetuated in earlier films. One of the most significant scenes in the more recent film 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013) depicts the protagonist Solomon Northup hanged from a tree, his toes only just touching the ground. McQueen forces his viewers to watch Northup hang, his life in the balance, for several minutes, because, as he put it, ‘the lynching had to be the best it could be done . . . I needed to do that the way that I did it.’ This paper will discuss the ways in which film directors from Fleischer to McQueen have shown black suffering on screen in films about slavery, and will interrogate the meaning of the production of such images in modern America

Location details


CTLP04, Teaching and Learning Building


Nottingham Trent University
Clifton Lane, Nottingham
NG11 8NS


Parking is available on the Clifton campus. For staff normal conditions apply and for external visitors, please arrive via the main entrance where you will be directed by the gate staff.

Past event

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