Born in 1957 to musician Bill Lee and writer Jackie Shelton, Spike Lee has been a controversial auteur since the start of his career. Raised in Brooklyn, his awareness of his African American identity was established at an early age and both this and the setting of Brooklyn would impact his later work. Later he attended famed HBCU Morehouse and shot his first student film, Last Hustle in Brooklyn. His first feature film, She’s Gotta Have It set the tone of his later works which would examine race relations, colorism in the black community, the role of media in contemporary life, urban crime and poverty, and other political issues. He has gone on to win several awards and receive numerous accolades for his work, included an Oscar, A BAFTA, Emmy awards, Peabody Awards and the Cannes Grand Prix, as well as many honorary awards. Several of his films, including Malcolm X and 4 Little Girls, have been selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. In celebration of Black History Month, we at the library have curated a selection of his works that express his unique vision and impact on American culture that are available for check out from your local branch.
Salvatore "Sal" Fragione is the Italian owner of a pizzeria in Brooklyn. A neighborhood local, Buggin' Out, becomes upset when he sees that the pizzeria's Wall of Fame exhibits only Italian actors. Buggin' Out believes a pizzeria in a black neighborhood should showcase black actors, but Sal disagrees. The wall becomes a symbol of racism and hate to Buggin' Out and to other people in the neighborhood, and tensions rise. Watch the trailer here.
A tribute to the controversial black activist and leader of the struggle for black liberation. He hit bottom during his imprisonment in the '50s, he became a Black Muslim and then a leader in the Nation of Islam. His assassination in 1965 left a legacy of self-determination and racial pride. Watch the trailer here.
On Sunday, September 15, 1963, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed by four members of a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated racist group. Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, four African-American girls between the ages of 11 and 14 who had been attending the church's Sunday school, were killed in the blast. Director Spike Lee's somber 1997 documentary tells the story through new interviews and archival footage. Watch the trailer here.
During the summer of 1977, a killer known as the Son of Sam keeps all of New York City on edge with a series of brutal murders. The philandering Vinny unwittingly almost becomes a victim of the psychopath, and soon he and numerous people in his orbit -- including his wife, Dionna, his punk-rocker friend, Ritchie, and aspiring porn star Ruby -- are trying to figure out the identity of the killer, before it's too late. Watch the trailer here.
In New York City in the days following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Monty Brogan steels himself for a lengthy jail term. Brogan is a convicted drug dealer about to start a seven-year prison sentence, and his final hours of freedom are devoted to hanging out with his closest buddies and trying to prepare his girlfriend, Naturelle Riviera, for his extended absence. Watch the trailer here.
This four-hour, Peabody Award-winning documentary revisits New Orleans five years after Hurricane Katrina, and four years since the premiere of Lee's landmark, triple Emmy-winning HBO documentary, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. Featuring many of the principals seen in the first documentary, the new film opens with February's celebratory Super Bowl parade before delving into such issues as relocation, rebuilding, mental-health concerns, the current status of the levees, and the impact on New Orleans of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Watch the trailer here.
Ron Stallworth is the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. The detective soon recruits a more seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman, into the undercover investigation of a lifetime. Together, they team up to take down the extremist hate group as the organization aims to sanitize its rhetoric to appeal to the mainstream. Watch the trailer here