Black Girl (1972)

“A spiritualist told me that a child that wasn’t mine was gonna make me happy one day!”

Black Girl Poster

An aspiring dancer (Peggy Pettit) is pressured by her bullying sisters (Gloria Edwards and Rhetta Greene) into mistreating a visiting foster sister (Leslie Uggams) who is idolized by their mother (Louise Stubbs).


This hard-hitting family drama — based on a play by J.E. Franklin — is graphically authentic in its representation of family dysfunction spiraling through generations. Full of profanity and cruel mistreatment, it’s a challenging but oddly refreshing viewing experience — much like August: Osage County (2013) (also based on a play). Pettit and her two half-sisters — all high school dropouts, living in a cramped apartment with their mother, grandmother (Claudia McNeil), and grandmother’s boyfriend (Kent Martin) — are deeply embittered by their mother’s overt dismissal of their own potential, and understandably furious that Stubbs turned to foster parenting in an attempt to salvage her own reputation as a supportive mother. Uggams — who’s gone away to a “white person’s college”, and whose own mother (Ruby Dee) had a nervous breakdown — adores “Mama Rose”, but feels conflicted about the effect her own success has had on her foster siblings.

An early interlude involving a visit from Stubbs’ first husband (Brock Peters) — biological father to Edwards and Greene — reveals quite a bit about Stubbs’ history and crushed dreams. He arrives waving $100 bills around, demonstrating his enduring power over the household years after he cheated on Stubbs and left for Detroit; he only half-jokingly withholds money from Pettit, who has borne the burden of different paternity her entire life. To that end, she clearly represents an opportunity to escape — if she can manage the wrath of her envious sisters, who are desperately trying to hold her back along with them. While not a true literary masterpiece like Lorraine Hansbury’s Raisin in the Sun, Black Girl remains worthy viewing for those interested in fearless exploration of family dynamics.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Louise Stubbs as Mama Rose
    Black Girl Stubbs
  • Good use of outdoor locales
    Black Girl L.A
  • A hard-hitting script
    Black Girl Script

Must See?
No, though it’s strongly recommended if you can stomach it.


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