On Screen: Black Women in US History
A Case Study of 6 Biopics Featuring Black Women Movies

On Screen: Black Women in US History

A Case Study of 6 Biopics Featuring Black Women

A Case Study of 6 Biopics Featuring Black Women

In honor of both Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), we at Latitude decided to take a look at depictions of important Black women in US history. Hollywood loves a good “based on a true story.” And US history is flush with stories – both told and untold – of Black women who made an impact.

The Study

To uncover what viewers most appreciated in these depictions, we tested six biopic scenes with 300+ viewers (30% African American, 25% African American women). 

Participants selected two out of these six scenes to view and give feedback on in the form of onscreen emojis and a set of follow-up questions.

The Women

  • Harriet Tubman was an American slavery abolitionist and political activist who rescued approximately 70 enslaved people as a "conductor" on the underground railroad.

  • Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a journalist, educator, and political activist dedicated to advancing social equality for women and African Americans. She was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

  • Sarah Breedlove/Madam C.J. Walker was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist. The first documented female self-made millionaire in the United States, she built her fortune primarily by developing hair care products designed for African Americans.

  • Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician whose complex calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights.

  • Mildred Loving was party to an important civil rights Supreme Court case (Loving vs. Virginia) in which the court ruled that laws against interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

  • Shirley Chisholm was a politician who became the first African American woman elected to the US Congress in 1968; in 1972, she became the first African American candidate for a major-party nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the nomination of the Democratic Party.

Here are a few of the things we learned...

Uniqueness is a Virtue

Audiences value the uniqueness of these women and the range of important characteristics they embody.

Historical Context is Key

People prefer historical accuracy over artistic flourishes. But they care most about placing these figures in a broader historical context.

Untold History has Widespread Appeal

African Americans are disproportionately interested in seeing more “untold” stories featuring important Black historical figures. However, a majority of the broader entertainment audience also has an interest.

And while all of the women featured in this study were rated as highly admirable, you can see exactly where all six netted out compared to one another below.

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Want to know even more about what audiences found compelling in these clips? Or what they might find particularly engaging in your content? Reach out to us

More Case Studies

Want to know even more about what audiences found compelling in these clips? Or what they might find particularly engaging in your content? Reach out to us!

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