Museum News

Statement on the Passing of John Singleton

The National Museum of African American History and Culture mourns the loss of critically acclaimed director, John Singleton. Founding Director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, issued the following statement today.

April 30, 2019
Alan Karchmer

We are all deeply saddened to learn about the untimely death of John Singleton.

Singleton’s work is critical to the history of cinema because throughout his career, he has been unafraid to use the power of the camera to discuss difficult issues.  He used his creativity to explore contemporary black life and the far-reaching impact of racism and violence in America.

His 1991 film, Boyz N the Hood, was groundbreaking. A landmark for its cinematography and storytelling, it earned  Singleton an Oscar nomination when he was 24, making him the youngest person ever nominated for best director and the first African-American to be nominated for the award.  His first film, Boyz N the Hood was  remarkable in that it showcased the work of many talented but under-recognized actors. He also used it to coax compelling performances from his starring cast of seasoned actors—Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne and Samuel Jackson as well as newcomer Ice Cube.  In 2002 the Library of Congress named the film “culturally significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.   Singleton holds a high spot in that pantheon of critically important African American filmmakers along with Spike Lee, Lee Daniels, Barry Jenkins, and Jordan Peele.

Boyz N the Hood, was an important story told with a nod to South Central Los Angeles.  It came at a time when black bodies were discounted and dismissed in cinema and in much of popular culture. Through that particular film, Singleton single-handedly re-ignited an important discussion about urban life while helping to amplify a new genre of films centered on telling important and complicated stories about the black experience in America. 

He was a man with a brilliant mind and a deep love of history.  I saw that in action when he interned with me at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles during his studies work at USC.  After graduating in 1990, he joined the faculty at USC, sharpening the skills of so many artists, prompting them to think and to act in bold new ways.  

He will be remembered for his courage, commitment, candor and unshakeable respect for his community: Black America.

 

Lonnie G. Bunch III
Founding Director

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation. A place that transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us, and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all.