Melvin Van Peebles, Hollywood Legend and Pioneer joins the ancestors

He was a prolific writer of books and musicals, but he is best remembered for a groundbreaking film that established the blaxploitation genre.

New York Times
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

He is best known as the auteur behind the first hit blaxploitation film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971), but he was an artist of great breadth and versatility: sculptor; poet; painter; composer and, with Gil Scott-Heron, progenitor of rap and hip-hop; playwright; gifted novelist. I would continue, but I have run out of semicolons

The Atlantic
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

He helped pave the way for the renegade genre known as blaxpolitation, with movies that were bitingly funny, sexually swaggering and occasionally violent, that put Black protagonists front and center.

Mario Van Peebles (left) and Melvin Van Peebles in 2018 in Los Angeles.
Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

True liberation did not mean imitating the colonizer’s mentality. It meant appreciating the power, beauty and interconnectivity of all people

Getty Images

I didn’t even know I had a legacy,” Van Peebles told the New York Times in a 2010 interview. “I do what I want to do

“Panther,” director Mario Van Peebles with father/writer Melvin Van Peebles on set in 1995
GramercyPictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

Mario Van Peebles on His Father’s Greatest Legacy: ‘He Put Black Power on the Screen for the First Time’

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