In 2013, two award-winning films highlighted the black historical experience in America. Chiwetel Ejiofor played Solomon Northup, a free man from upstate New York who is sold into slavery, in the Oscar award winning 12 Years a Slave. In director Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, who served as a butler in the White House over the course of eight presidential terms.
And in 2014, Amma Asante’s Belle movie tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral and an African slave woman. But rather than being brought up as a second-class citizen in England, her childless aunt and uncle, Lord and Lady Mansfield, raised her as a legitimate child and an aristocrat.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw brings the role of Dido Elizabeth Belle to the screen in a film that highlights race and class issues in Georgian England, and theorizes that Belle may have inspired Lord Mansfield’s opposition to slavery. Read more