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Movies and TV Series Adapted from Black Writers’ Books and Plays

  |   Article, Commentary

In celebration of Black History Month, IVA wanted to spotlight African-American authors whose books and plays were adapted to the screen.  In researching this article, it became clear that there is not much information about this topic, making it more important that we feature these titles.  This is not intended to be a comprehensive list and we welcome suggestions of titles we did not include to build on this article and inform our database. We hope that this assists others in learning all the talented writers that the black community has to offer and sheds light on the black experience.

 

August Wilson:

 

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020)

Description: “Tensions and temperatures rise at a Chicago music studio in 1927 when fiery, fearless blues singer Ma Rainey joins her band for a recording session.”

 

Directed By: George C. Wolfe

 

Starring: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fences (2016)

Description: “Troy Maxson is a mid-century Pittsburgh sanitation worker who once dreamed of a baseball career, but was too old when the major leagues began admitting black players. He tries to be a good husband and father, but his lost dream of glory eats at him, and causes him to make a decision that threatens to tear his family apart.”

 

Directed By: Denzel Washington

 

Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

 

 

The Piano Lesson

Description: “A family of African Americans in 1936 Pittsburgh argue about a piano that was traded by a slave owner for two of the family’s ancestors.”

 

Directed By: Lloyd Richards

 

Starring: Alfre Woodard, Charles Dutton, Zelda Harris, Carl Gordon, Tommy Hollis

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

Terry McMillan:

 

 

Waiting to Exhale (1995)

Description: “Navigating through careers, family and romance, four friends bond over the shortcomings in their love lives — namely, the scarcity of good men.”

 

Directed By: Lloyd Richards

 

Starring: Angela Bassett, Gregory Hines, Wesley Snipes, Whitney Houston, Lela Rochon

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

 

 

How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)

Description: “Stella is a highly successful, forty-something, stock broker who takes a well deserved, first-class vacation to Jamaica. As she soaks in the beauty of the island, she encounters a strapping, young islander.”

 

Directed By: Kevin Sullivan

 

Starring: Angela Bassett, Whoopi Goldberg, Regina King, Taye Diggs, Suzzanne Douglas

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

Toni Morrison:

 

Beloved (1998)

Description: “On a difficult journey to find freedom, Sethe (Oprah Winfrey) is constantly confronted by the secrets that have haunted her for years. Then, an old friend from out of her past (Danny Glover) unexpectedly reenters her life. With his help, Sethe may finally be able to rediscover who she is and regain her lost sense of hope.”

 

Directed By: Jonathan Demme

 

Starring: Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, LisaGay Hamilton, Albert Hall

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

Alice Walker:

 

The Color Purple (1985)

Description: “From 1909 to 1949, Celie, a Southern Black woman, gradually gains self-respect as she strives to educate herself and to find love–despite an abusive spouse and a society biased against her race and her sex.”

 

Directed By: Steven Spielberg

 

Starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, Danny Glover, Akosua Busia, Oprah Winfrey

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

Margot Lee Shetterly:

 

Hidden Figures (2016)

Description: “The incredible untold true story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan & Mary Jackson—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.”

 

Directed By: Theodore Melfi

 

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

 

Sapphire:

 

Precious (2009)

Description: “Set in Harlem in 1987, Claireece “Precious” Jones, a sixteen year old African-American girl born into a life no one would want. School is a place of chaos, and Precious has reached the ninth grade with good marks and an awful secret: she can neither read nor write.”

 

Directed By: Lee Daniels

 

Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Mo’Nique, Paula Patton

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

Chris Gardner:

 

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Description: “A struggling salesman takes custody of his son as he’s poised to begin a life-changing professional endeavor.”

 

Directed By: Gabriele Muccino

 

Starring: Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

Alex Haley:

 

Roots (1977) – TV Miniseries

Description: “The epic tale of celebrated Pulitzer-prize winning author Alex Haley’s ancestors covers a period of history that begins in mid-1700s Gambia, West Africa and concludes during post-Civil War United States, over 100 years later. ”

 

Starring: LeVar Burton, Louis Gossett Jr., Todd Bridges, Leslie Uggams, John Amos, Ben Vereen

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

Gloria Naylor:

 

The Women of Brewster Place (1989) – TV Miniseries

Description: “A gripping and loving group portrait of seven black women whose backs are literally against the wall; a wall whose crumbling brick facade has turned the address of Brewster Place into both a real and symbolic dead end.”

 

Directed By: Donna Deitch

 

Starring: Robin Givens, Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey, Lynn Whitfield, Jackee Harry, Paul Winfield

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

Bryan Stevenson:

 

Just Mercy (2019)

Description: “The story follows young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) and his history-making battle for justice.”

 

Directed By: Destin Daniel Cretton

 

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Denitra Isler, Brie Larson

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

Ntozke Shange:

 

For Colored Girls (2010)

Description: “An all-star cast portrays a vibrant world where friends and strangers dream, fear, cry, love, and laugh out loud in an attempt to find their true selves.”

 

Directed By: Tyler Perry

 

Starring: Janet Jackson, Anika Noni Rose, Whoopi Goldberg, Thandie Newton, Kerry Washington

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

James Baldwin:

 

I Am Not Your Negro (2017) Documentary

Description: “Combining Baldwin’s manuscript with footage of depictions of African-Americans throughout American history, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ uses Baldwins words to illuminate the pervasiveness of American racism and the efforts to curtail it, from the civil rights movement to #BlackLivesMatter.”

 

Directed By: Raoul Peck

 

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Sidney Poitier, Barack Obama, Billy Dee Williams

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

 

Lorraine Hansberry:

 

A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

Description: “Combining Baldwin’s manuscript with footage of depictions of African-Americans throughout American history, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ uses Baldwins words to illuminate the pervasiveness of American racism and the efforts to curtail it, from the civil rights movement to #BlackLivesMatter.”

 

Directed By: Daniel Petrie

 

Starring: Sidney Poitier, Louis Gossett Jr., Ruby Dee, John Fielder

 

Trailer and links to where to stream

 

 

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