One of the most exciting things about being an undergraduate in college was discovering that I could turn my passion, interests, and hobbies into serious, introspective research projects. With guidance from professors who trained me to have a narrowly focused enthusiasm, I found my childhood roots in horror films to be a force of articulate expression on how I felt about the current and historical social conditions I studied for my degree in the humanities. I was able to understand the connection between horror films and those conditions on my own, but it took the ever growing body of academic publications and the voices of scholars who braved the terrain of a cinematic bracket that continues to survive on little respect in the academy, the inspiration I needed to continue as I used their work as the backdrop for the legitimacy of my arguments.
As difficult as it is to tackle a discussion of race on its own, imagine packaging it with horror films, a space where it’s commonly perceived to be occupied overwhelmingly by white and Asian participants. But one particular scholar by the name of Dr. Robin R. Means Colemandecided that it was time a thorough look at the history of horror in regards to African Americans in the genre was long overdue. She is the author of the book, Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890’s to Present published in 2011.
For Dr. Coleman, Horror Noire serves as a cultural and historical reference guide about Blacks in horror films that covers the terrain of social influence on what role African Americans played in the variations of horror films throughout the decades, how that social influence diversified those roles, and the perceptions of audiences and the unique way African Americans popularized the genre with their spending power. In short, the participation of Black people in horror films is vastly multi-layered from the director’s chair to the theatre seat. These are facts I don’t see spouted enough by horror fans and Horror Noireopens the dialogue about how people of color have consistently found their muse in this morsel of American history.
It’s a great read for anyone interested in the subject matter or for those who simply thought that the Black dude always dies first.
For more insight on Dr. Coleman’s book, visit and read the Graveyard Shift Sisters interview!
Ashlee is currently the Sponsorship Director for Women in Horror Month and a“horror academic nerd”. She also digs vegan desserts and would like to teach classes about horror movies. More of her musings can be found at www.quirksandsplatters.com