Marlon Riggs, filmmaker, social trailblazer

Marlon T. Riggs
Sun, 1957-02-03

*On this date we mark the birth of Marlon Troy Riggs. He was an African American documentary filmmaker and educator who used video to oppose racism and homophobia.

Born in 1957, Riggs grew up in a military family, moving from Texas to Georgia to Germany before returning to the United States to attend Harvard University. As an undergraduate he began to explore connections between Black and gay identities, culminating in a senior thesis on the treatment of male homosexuality in literature. After graduating magna cum laude in 1978, Riggs worked briefly at a Texas television station before moving to San Francisco. He received a master's degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California at Berkeley in 1981 and joined the Berkeley faculty six years later.

As a Gay man, Ethnic Notions, the first film Marlon Riggs wrote, directed, and produced, won an Emmy Award in 1988 for its investigation of racial stereotypes in American society. That same year, Riggs began work on his most famous film, Tongues Untied. A work that inspired outraged attacks from conservatives. His film Color Adjustment, which earned him a Peabody Award, documented the representation of African-Americans on television. Despite deteriorating health, Marlon Riggs remained active as a lecturer, teacher, and filmmaker until his death from AIDS in 1994.

The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage
by Susan Altman
Copyright 1997, Facts on File, Inc. New York
ISBN 0-8160-3289-0

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Riggs, Marlon