The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Discussions of Diversity: Banned Books on Film Series

Mount Ida Film Series CMS

Wadsworth Library, Mount Ida Campus

Fall 2019 Film Series

October 14th, 2019
“The Color Purple: Alice Walker, Oprah Winfrey, and Perceptions of Black Womanhood in the 20th Century”

Alice Walker’s seminal work about black women living and working in a small southern town in the early 20th century examines relationships between men and women, with their children, and how perceptions of racial identity and self-worth are perpetuated in various socio-cultural circles. In examining underlying themes of self-awareness, self-awakening, and self-liberation in Walker’s characters, participants will discuss how the author effectively uses them to talk candidly about the reality of race, gender, sexual identity, and class within the context of the historical period and how these ideologies translate onto the 21st century societal landscape.

We’ll view Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated adaptation of Walker’s novel, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Danny Glover, comparing the coverage of themes within the book and discussing the way in which Morrison’s characters and messages are portrayed on film.

December 12th, 2019
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: African Americans and a Legacy of Mistreatment within the Medical Community”

In an examination of Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” participants will learn about Lacks and her major contributions to medical science through the unethical harvesting of her unique cancer cells without her permission in 1951. Lacks’ cells have been bought and sold millions of times since they were harvested, with no financial compensation or consent from her family. To this day, Henrietta’s cells are still used in major clinical drug trials and research labs, cloned to sell to for-profit companies who make billions on biotech research ventures or for use in government-funded studies.

The 2018 docudrama, based on Skloot’s book and produced by Oprah Winfrey and HBO, will be used to discuss the controversies surrounding medical ethics and the disenfranchised, looking at race, gender, and class and the role those factors have played historically in the selection of subjects for human experimentation in medicine. Using the Lacks story as a case study, participants will discuss how other groups including African-American men at Tuskegee Institute, prisoners, the mentally ill and disabled, and the poor have been used throughout history as test subjects for the purported “common good” and how this has inherently affected people of color around the world even today.

Sponsored by a grant from the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Campus Climate Improvement.