The phrase is rife with connotations of African-Americans being exploited yet again but, in the history of invented Variety-esque lingo, never has a bit of jargon been so misused and misunderstood.
Exploitation flicks suck every last drop of essence du subject matter from their stories and characters: sex, violence, hysteria, kung fu. In Black cinema, the same themes were being exploited, from the African-American point-of-view.
But, for the first time in history, African-Americans were controlling production. The blaxploitation films of the ‘70s were shot by African-Americans, crewed by African-Americans, starred African-Americans, shown in African-American theaters to African-Americans, and in many cases, grossed tens of millions of dollars in African-American money. Black directors like Melvin van Peebles, Gordon Parks and Ossie Davis were able to bring great African-American novels and mythology to the screen as well as creating a new breed of heroes. These champions came from all walks of life: Feds, cops, pimps, hookers, hustlas and gangstas, but no matter their occupations, they demanded respect. Black-powered with Black pride.
Sweet Sweetback (Melvin van Peebles)
Occupation: Sex show performer.
Job Description: Dedicated to all the Brothers and Sisters who have had enough of the Man.
Qualifications: You bled my Momma. You bled my Poppa. But you won’t bleed me.
Assignments: Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971).
Shaft (Richard Roundtree)
Occupation: Private Investigator.
Job Description: A black private dick who’s a sex machine with all the chicks.
Qualifications: One bad mutha… shut your mouth.
Assignments: Shaft (1972) Shaft’s Big Score (1972), Shaft in Africa (1973).
Superfly (Ron O’Neal)
Occupation: Dope Dealer.
Job Description: I’m you’re momma, I’m your daddy, I’m you’re nigga in the alley, I’m your pusherman.
Qualifications: Never a dude like this one! He's got a plan to stick it to The Man!
Assignments: Superfly (1972), Superfly T.N.T. (1973) Return of Superfly (1990).
Foxy Brown (Pam Grier)
Occupation: Hooker activist.
Job Description: The meanest chick in town!
Qualifications: She’s brown sugar and spice, but if you don’t treat her nice, she’ll put you on ice.
Assignments: Foxy Brown (1974).
Cleopatra Jones (Tamara Dobson)
Occupation: US Government Special Agent
Job Description: She's "ten miles of bad road" for every hood in town!
Qualifications: She’s 6’2” and all of it Dynamite
Assignments: Cleopatra Jones (1973) Cleopatra Jones and the City of Gold (1975)
Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed (Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques)
Occupation: Plainclothes detectives.
Job Description: Two detectives only a mother could love.
Qualifications: Based upon the novel by Chester Himes.
Assignments: Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) Come Back, Charleston Blue (1972)
Slaughter (Jim Brown)
Occupation: Former Green Beret turned vigilante mercenary.
Job Description: It’s not only his name, it’s his business--and sometimes, his pleasure.
Qualifications: The mob put the finger on Slaughter... so he gave them the finger right back--curled tight around a trigger!
Assignments: Slaughter (1972) Slaughter’s Big Rip -Off (1973)
Coffy (Pam Grier)
Job Description: She’s the Godmother of them all… the baddest one-chick hit squad that ever hit town!
Qualifications: They call her Coffy, and she'll cream you!
Assignments: Coffy (1973).
Jesse Crowder (Fred Williamson)
Job Description: Bring in the informer... 3000 miles in 48 hours... ALIVE!
Qualifications: The Mob says "No Way!" Crowder says "Try and stop me!"
Assignments: No Way Back (1975), Death Journey (1976), Blind Rage (1978), The Last Fight (1982).
Black Caesar (Fred Williamson)
Job Description: Godfather of Harlem.
Qualifications: The Cat with the .45-Caliber Claws!
Assignments: Black Caesar (1973), Hell Up in Harlem (1973).
Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore)
Job: The hero of the hip-hop generation.
Qualifications: Nerve-shattering ...Brain-battering ...Mind-splattering ...A ONE MAN DISASTER!
Assignments: Dolemite (1975), The Human Tornado (1976), The Legend of Dolemite (1994), Big Money Hustlas (1999).
Black Belt Jones (Jim Kelly)
Occupation: Martial Arts Instructor.
Job Description: He clobbers the mob.
Qualifications: Black Fist of Fury!
Assignments: Black Belt Jones (1974), Hot Potato (1976).