Hollywood failed Nina Simone with her biopic, but we know the powers that be can do better.
Women’s History Month has inspired us to think about all of the incredible Black women that we’d love to see in theaters. Whether they’re names that we grew up hearing about and celebrating, or more recent Sheroes, our community is full captivating narratives.
Should any of these projects actually materialize, we offer a word of advice: Don’t mess it up, Hollywood! You have access to the best writers, directors and producers for the job. Use them.
Ideal Casting: Uzo Aduba
Oprah is a media powerhouse that rose to fame after coming from nothing. She started from the bottom and now has her own network, dubbed OWN (Boss Level: 1 Million). However, she didn’t just roll out of bed one morning and create an empire. It took years of work as she defied all of the odds set up against her.
2. Madame CJ Walker
Ideal Casting: Danielle Brooks
Madame C.J. Walker revolutionized hair care for Black women in the United States, and went on to become one of the wealthiest Black women in the country at the time. While she could have kept all the money to herself, she used her riches to enrich her community by becoming a philanthropist and a political activist in the early 1900s. She was the ultimate mix of beauty, brains, and business with a little bit of heart sprinkled in, and her biopic would be nothing less than fabulous.
3. Rosa Parks
Ideal Casting: Jasmine Guy
In school, we’re taught the basics of Rosa Park’s legacy: She refused to give her seat up to a White man and made history. But what’s the story behind that action? What was her life like before that moment and how had it changed after she was locked up? We want to know, and we want to see it on the big screen.
4. Stephanie Lampkin
Ideal Casting: Janelle Monae
If you haven’t heard of Stephanie Lampkin by now, it’s ok. The Tech genius, who was a web developer by the age of 15, has been busy in the lab working on a revolutionary app called Blendoor. The app, which launched this week, helps facilitate merit-based job matching based on blind recruiting. It hides a candidate’s name (and picture) from hiring managers so they’re only judging potential employees based on their qualifications. A biopic would be a great way to get to know her, and it would show young Black children that there is a space for them in the Tech Industry despite its huge diversity problem. Afterall, Stephanie was turned down from a coding job because of lack of experience and went on to work for Microsoft.
5. Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler
Ideal Casting: Angela Bassett
Rebecca Davis Lee is the first Black woman to become a physician in the United States during the Civil War in Boston. Given the barriers to education for women (as well as the outright racism and bigotry of the time), it is incredible that Rebecca could accomplish such a huge feat. Not only that, but she rounded out her medical career by writing a book on all the things she’d learned.
6. Bessie Coleman
Ideal Casting: Jennifer Hudson
As the first Black female pilot, Bessie Coleman is the original fly girl. Could you imagine the drama behind all of her high-flying adventures? This story would have huge potential to be Box Office gold.
7. Zora Neale Hurston
Ideal Casting: Taraji P. Henson
When you get your hands on a book by Zora Neale Hurston, you know you’re in for a good read. A movie about her life would be the ultimate story behind her page-turners. If she was good enough to inspire two restaurants, a biopic should be nothing.
8. Billie Holiday
Ideal Casting: Tessa Thompson
Billie Holiday had a voice and a way with music that commanded attention. She added a flavor to the Harlem Renaissance that rounded out the soulful tone of the time with a special flare. We know there’s already been a biopic for her in Lady Sings The Blues, but movie audiences might be up for an encore.
9. Angela Davis
Ideal Casting: Amandla Stenberg
If ever there was a time to focus a film on activism in the Black community, it is now. With movements like Black Lives Matter, Oscars So White and the Flint Water Crisis, the nation is seeing a lot of issues where race is a factor–not unlike the civil rights movement. Angela’s story would be a great way to take a look back at how people mobilized to demand their rights and equality a little louder than the previous generation. While she wasn’t part of the Black Panther Party (despite popular belief), she did have a close relationship with the organization.
10. Ida B. Wells
Ideal Casting: Shanice Williams
Ida B. Wells paved the way for Black women in journalism. She used her voice to lead an anti-lynching campaign as she wrote about the countless murders carried out over false claims of rape made by White women. Wouldn’t you want to see a film about that? We know it would be Oscar-worthy.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes doesn’t have her own network, but she basically owns an entire night of programming on ABC that puts women of color in the spotlight. She’s proven that diverse casting not only works–it dominates as shows like “Scandal” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “How To Get Away With Murder” pull in millions of viewers every week. That was no small order, and it would be an interesting journey to watch.