Iconic Director Melvin Van Peebles Dies At 89 [CONDOLENCES]

Iconic Director Melvin Van Peebles Dies At 89 [CONDOLENCES]

Groundbreaking director, actor, and musician, Melvin Van Peebles has sadly passed away.

According to reports, he died on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2021, at his home in Manhattan. He was 89 years old. His cause of death is not known at this time.

His son, actor Mario Van Peebles, who he often acted on-screen with, wrote in a statement,

“Dad knew that Black images matter. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what was a movie worth? We want to be the success we see, thus we need to see ourselves being free. True liberation did not mean imitating the colonizer’s mentality. It meant appreciating the power, beauty and interconnectivity of all people.”

Melvin Van Peebles, Mario Van Peebles

Melvin Van Peebles, who was often called the ‘godfather of modern Black cinema,’ was born in Chicago on Aug. 21st, 1932.

Before heading to Hollywood, Melvin Van Peebles graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1953 and joined the air force, where he served as navigator for three years.


Melvin wrote numerous plays and movies such as the Tony-nominated Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death and Don’t Play Us Cheap and the infamous ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baada****** Song. That project, which opened the door to blaxploitation type films, was a film about a Black street hustler on the run after killing a white officer. Melvin wrote, produced, directed, starred in, and scored the movie.

Backed by Bill Cosby, was made for $500K and grossed $14 million at the box office.

On his film Melvin said,

“All the films about Black people up to now have been told through the eyes of the Anglo-Saxon majority in their rhythms and speech and pace.”

He continued:

“I could have called it ‘The Ballad of the Indomitable Sweetback.’ But I wanted the core audience, the target audience, to know it’s for them. So I said ‘Ba-ad A****,’ like you really say it.”

Melvin is also known for starring in an episode of Living Single with his son, Mario, called ‘Likes Father, Likes Son’ in 1996.

Melvin’s death comes just five days prior to the New York Film Festival, which was preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sweet Sweetback’s Baada****** Song. 

Our condolences to Melvin Van Peebles’ family and loved ones.


Authored by: Ellori Nicole