Donald Bogle

Donald Bogle is a film historian and author of six books concerning African Americans in film and on television. He is an instructor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and at the University of Pennsylvania.[1]

Early years

Bogle grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia and graduated from Lincoln University in 1966. As a child, he spent a lot of time watching television and going to the movies. He wondered why there were very few African-American characters. He also wondered what happened to the Black characters when they went off-screen.[1] In a 2005 interview, Bogle recalled:

In the movie Gone with the Wind, how did Hattie McDaniel live—in the big house or the slaves' quarters? What did she think about the civil war? These were all questions I wanted answers to.[1]


Bogle's first book, Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretative History of Blacks in Films, was published in 1973. In it, he identified five basic stereotypical film roles available to African-American actors and actresses: the servile, avuncular "tom"; the simple-minded and cowardly "coon"; the tragic, and usually female, mulatto; the fat, dark-skinned "mammy"; and the irrational, hypersexual male "buck".[2] In the second edition of the book, Bogle identified a sixth stereotype: the sidekick, who is usually asexual.[2] Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks was awarded the 1973 Theatre Library Association Award.[3]

Brown Sugar: Eighty Years of America's Black Female Superstars was published in 1980.[4] It was the basis of a four-hour PBS documentary that aired in 1986.[5] Bogle published his third book, Blacks in American Film and Television: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, in 1988.[6]

Bogle's next book, a biography of actress Dorothy Dandridge (1922–1965), caused a sensation before its 1997 publication.[4] It sparked renewed interest in Dandridge's life, and several Black performers raced to make a film about her.[7] Whitney Houston acquired the rights to produce a movie based on Bogle's biography,[7] but Halle Berry brought Introducing Dorothy Dandridge to fruition.[8]

Bogle published Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television in 2001. In it, he argued that television lags behind film in reflecting the social realities of African Americans.[9] His next book, Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story of Black Hollywood, was published in 2005. It tells the story of African-American actors and actresses in the film industry during the first half of the 20th century.[10] In 2011, he published Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters, which examines the personal and professional life of singer and stage performer, Ethel Waters.



  1. 1 2 3 Lisbon, James (Fall 2005). "Donald Bogle: African American Cinema Historian" (PDF). Awareness Magazine. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  2. 1 2 Spears, Arthur K. (1999). "Race and Ideology: An Introduction". In Spears, Arthur K. Race and Ideology: Language, Symbolism, and Popular Culture. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. pp. 47–48. ISBN 0-8143-2454-1.
  3. "Previous Winners of the Theatre Library Association Award". Theatre Library Association. Archived from the original on September 15, 2008. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  4. 1 2 Brennan, Carol. "Donald Bogle". Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  5. O'Connor, John J. (February 7, 1986). "TV Weekend: Black History on PBS". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  6. Rule, Sheila (March 16, 1993). "Black Film Portrait Back on Screen". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  7. 1 2 Maslin, Janet (June 19, 1997). "Hollywood's Tryst With Dorothy Dandridge Inspires Real Love at Last". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  8. "Halle Berry Brings the Passion and Pain of Dorothy Dandridge to HBO Movie". Jet. August 23, 1999. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  9. Tucker, Ken (February 28, 2001). "Color Blind". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  10. Washington, Laurence. "Bright Boulevards, Bold Dreams: The Story of Black Hollywood". Retrieved April 10, 2009.

External links

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