Treasured Black Books Adapted for Film

For Colored Girls, Tyler Perry's adaptation of Ntozake Shange's famous play, has been met with resistance from fans of the choreopoem. But it's not the first celebrated written work-turned-movie that critics feel should have been left alone.

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  • 'For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf'

    'For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf'

    Ntozake Shange’s work was first staged in 1975 in San Francisco. Two years later, the choreopoem was published as a book, creating countless fans of Shange’s work.

  • 'For Colored Girls,' the Movie

    'For Colored Girls,' the Movie

    Tyler Perry would not have been most For Colored Girls fans’ first choice as writer and director of a movie based on Shange’s play. Many believe that the commercially successful but critically panned filmmaker did not have the chops to make something beautiful out of Shange’s words. Are they right? One early review describes the film as a train wreck.

  • 'The Color Purple'

    'The Color Purple'

    This classic Alice Walker novel, published in 1982, tells a heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting story centered around Celie, a woman used and abused by her father and husband. Walker won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for the book.

  • 'The Color Purple,' the Movie

    'The Color Purple,' the Movie

    When Stephen Spielberg announced that he was directing the film version of the book, fans were in an uproar. Did a white man have what it takes to create a film out of Alice Walker’s complex material? Whether or not lovers of the book liked the movie, which starred Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover, it was a commercial and critical success, receiving 11 Academy Award nominations. Twenty years later, the novel was successfully adapted as a musical on Broadway.

  • 'Beloved'

    'Beloved'

    One of Toni Morrison’s most famous books, Beloved, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historical novel dealing with heavy topics, including slavery and infanticide.

  • 'Beloved,' the Movie

    'Beloved,' the Movie

    Oprah Winfrey, a huge fan of Toni Morrison and Beloved, produced and starred in the 1998 film version. Winfrey had Morrison’s blessing, but some book fans and critics of the film may have wished that the talk-show queen had left their beloved novel alone. 

  • 'Native Son'

    'Native Son'

    Richard Wright’s seminal protest novel, which tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a young black man who commits two grisly murders, was a best-seller when it was released in 1940, and it made Wright the wealthiest black author of his time.

  • 'Native Son,' the Movie

    'Native Son,' the Movie

    Communist themes and a homicidal protagonist don’t make Native Son the simplest book to make into a movie. No one knows this better than director Jerrold Freedman, who was criticized for sanitizing the story for his 1986 film starring Victor Love, Oprah Winfrey (again) and Matt Dillon.

  • 'Their Eyes Were Watching God'

    'Their Eyes Were Watching God'

    Taught in schools across the country, Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of the literary masterpieces to come out of the Harlem Renaissance.

  • 'Their Eyes Were Watching God,' the Movie

    'Their Eyes Were Watching God,' the Movie

    Is Halle Berry a good-enough actress to play protagonist Janie? Will Oprah do the novel justice? These questions were asked in 2005 when Winfrey produced a TV-movie adaptation of the book for ABC. The movie was nominated for some mainstream awards, but some members of the black press were unhappy with it.