Mia Mask is the Author of Black Rodeo: A History of the African American Western
Mia Mask, The Mary Riepma Ross Professor of Film, is the author of “Black Rodeo: A History of the African American Western” published for 2023 by University of Illinois Press. A first-of-its kind survey, the new book examines the African American western hero in the broader context of film history by considering how African American westerns evolved and approached various goals.
Mask considers Woody Strode’s 1950s transformation from football star to actor as the harbinger of hard-edged western heroes later played by Jim Brown and Fred Williamson. She examines Sidney Poitier’s directorial debut, Buck and the Preacher, because it was a groundbreaking film offering unconventional roles for women.
Black Rodeo moves from these analyses to explore blaxploitation westerns and Jeff Kanew’s 1972 documentary about an all-Black rodeo, addressing how these films set the stage for modern-day westploitation films like Django Unchained. “Mask provides an insightful commentary on the Civil Rights era and its African American-themed Westerns from today’s perspective,” observed Angela Aleiss of California State University Long Beach. “Richly researched....This carefully crafted academic treatment will enhance library shelves,” notes Library Journal of Mask’s latest monograph.