Solomon Northup’s harrowing story, 12 Years a Slave, was deserving of the silver screen and the accolades that followed. But there are books by black authors, like Tananarive Due, Octavia Butler and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, that tell other stories, beyond the whips and chains of slavery, that Hollywood should consider bringing to the big screen.
1. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass
The lauded abolitionist was blatantly robbed of his cameo in Lincoln and deserves his own movie that reinserts him into history as a major influence on Abraham Lincoln’s conscience. The formula for a box office smash: 1) Cast Samuel Jackson in a wig; 2) Open the film on the anniversary of the day Douglass escaped from slavery (Sept. 3); and 3) Though this may be far-fetched, give the film artistic license to feature a scene in which the erudite abolitionist gives the middle finger to revisionist historians and to those who labeled him three-fifths of a man. We know Sam Jackson can handle that.
2. American Cocktail: A “Colored Girl” in the World, by Anita Reynolds
Reynolds’ life was a grand adventure, placing her shoulder to shoulder with some of the most iconic figures in history—Coco Chanel, Charlie Chaplin and W.E.B. Du Bois, to name a few. The movie’s success would depend on depicting Reynolds’ grand international lifestyle—think Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! or The Great Gatsby—without abandoning the essence of what it was like to want to be any color but black. Because of her talent and success in portraying ambiguously ethnic characters and her fun-loving spirit, Rashida Jones is my pick for the lead.
3. Wild Seed, by Octavia E. Butler
Erykah Badu’s video for the song “Didn’t Cha Know” provides a motif for what a scene in Butler’s Afro-futuristic tale of Anyanwu and Doro could be. This delicious sci-fi tale from the Patternmaster series encompasses slavery but allows for fantasy, with characters shifting shapes and traveling through centuries of time. The treatment would need to be epic—on the same level as Star Wars. I would ask the beloved Tyler Perry to sit this one out.