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Term of The Week: Magic Negro

Author: Tafari, Monday, March 26th, 2007 at 6:33 AM Mindspill

Before reading my boy's blog (The Free Slave)post about "Black Snake Moan" (I will not be seeing this movie BTW) I had never heard the term Magic Negro. Well after I read it about it there 1st, I started reading other posts in the Blogosphere referring to Barack Obama as a "Magic Negro".

So of course I had to go to Wikipedia to see if there was an entry on the Magical Negro & without a doubt, they did not fail me & I now fully understand the term Magic Negro.

So now that I am enlightened to the term Magic Negro, I feel that I am a Magic Negro most of the time when on the plantation (If you are Negro, you know where I mean (if not read between the lines)).
According to Wikidepia:

The Magical Negro (sometimes called the Mystical Negro, Magic Negro, or our Magical African-American Friend) is a stock character who appears in fiction of a variety of media. The word "Negro", now considered archaic and offensive, is used intentionally to emphasize the belief that the archetype is a racist throwback, an update of the "Sambo" stereotype. The term, which may have been in use since at least the 1950s, was popularized by Spike Lee, who dismissed the archetype of the "super-duper Magical Negro" in 2001 while discussing films with students at Washington State University and at Yale University.


The Magical Negro is typically "in some way outwardly or inwardly disabled, either by discrimination, disability or social constraint," often a janitor or prisoner. He has no past; he simply appears one day to help the white protagonist. He is the black stereotype, "prone to criminality and laziness." To counterbalance this, he has some sort of magical power, "rather vaguely defined but not the sort of thing one typically encounters." They are patient and wise, often dispensing various words of wisdom, and are "closer to the earth."

The Magical Negro serves as a plot device to help the protagonist get out of trouble, typically through helping the white character recognize his own faults and overcome them. In this way, the Magical Negro is similar to the Deus ex machina; a simple way for the protagonist to overcome an obstacle almost entirely through outside help. Although he has magical powers, his "magic is ostensibly directed toward helping and enlightening a white male character." It is this feature of the Magical Negro that some people find most troubling. Although the character seems to be showing African-Americans in a positive light, he is still ultimately subordinate to whites. He is also regarded as an exception, allowing white America to "like individual black people but not black culture."

To save the white protagonist, however, he would do anything, including sacrificing himself, as Sidney Poitier did in The Defiant Ones, the prototypical Magical Negro movie.
Back to Me:

Wikidepia & other online sources listed movies with Magical Negro characters & I found myself laughing because amongst them were a few of my favorites, which include:

  • All Whoopi Goldberg movies with the exception of the “Color Purple”
    • Black Beauty
    • Jumping Jack Flash
    • Corrina, Corrina
    • Ghost
    • Etc…
  • The Green Mile (Michael Clarke Duncan)
  • Forrest Gump (Mykelti Williamson (Bubba))
  • The Matrix (Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) & The Oracle(Gloria Foster))
  • Bringing Down the House (Queen Latifah)
  • House Guest (Sinbad)
  • Far From Heaven (Dennis Haysbert)
Do you have any favorite movies with a Magical Negro & most importantly, have you ever felt like a Magical Negro at any given period in your life?

Oh & for the record; I do not think that Barack is magical; he’s just a Negro that has my vote! Mindspill

10 Responses to “Term of The Week: Magic Negro”

  1. Stephen Bess Says:

    Excellent! Yes, Will Smith played one in, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Once again, great post and I love the picture at the top.

  2. Ingrid Says:

    I was thinking the same thing Stephen. Lawd H’Mercy! I wasn’t aware we had such a title. , but it makes sense. I will be on the look out for Magic Negroes. It shouldn’t be hard, if the cast isn’t all black then the magic negro will always be found. This was an excellent post. I will keep my eyes peeled.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Morgan Freeman-The Shawshank Redemption

  4. Bygbaby Says:

    Hey Stephen: I decided not to see Baggaer Vance because it looked like a streotypical hot mess. I “barrowed” the original image from from this URL ( I then tricked it out in photoshop.

    LOL Ingrid. Negroes I now see have one of four possible roles in a film where they are the the only one. a) Magical b) The White acting token c) The Ghetto but cool friend & d) The first Nigga to die just to get a good horror or thriller off to a good start.

    My personal goal is to be d so that I can break into Hollywood.

    Anonymous: Good one & I forgot all about it. Thx for stopping by.


  5. Cluizel Says:

    Damn…now that there is a name for it…”Magic Negro”…that sounds like something I would say anyway. lol

  6. Darius T. Williams Says:

    Yea – me too. I don’t think Obama is magical. But, he DEFINITELY has my vote as well.

  7. sunsail Says:

    Huh. No wonder I was never really a fan of all those movies you mentioned. Never heard the term before, but something in them just sat wrong with me…

    Another movie that has a magic negress (???) is Pirates of the caribbean, dead man’s chest. Y’all remember that hot swampy mess of a seer/witch/santera that wanteed to jump in jack sparrow’s pants, right??

  8. aulelia Says:

    this is a great post, byg.

    i have never heard of this term before at all. do you think it is an offensive term in the line as sambo?

    maybe cuba gooding junior in ‘jerry maguire’??


  9. Keith Says:

    I really loved this post, man. Really hits on some deep issues. Part of the magical negro thing made me think of one of my favorite quotes from Brother Malcolm when discussing the mentality of the Hopuse Negro: “What’s the matter boss? We sick?” Quite obviously it’s the House Negro with the fatal internalized ilness.

    Whiole I’m not quite so sure that The Matrix (Full disclosure, I confess, one of my favorite movies), there is no doubt that many of the ones you named proudly carry the torch of the self-sacrificing I-will die-4-u magical darkie. This, of course, is because entertainment is commerce, and white people wil never tire of licking the tears from their own cheeks when Ole Rastus runs to their rescue just in time to be hit by the oncomoming train. To the fully Americanized mind, this is a selfless act of love committed by a member of the oppressed who has the ability to rise above hatred and save his oppressor, thereby elevating himself. To the brutally sane, we know that Rastus needs the cure.

    “What’s the matter boss? We sick?”

  10. Carmen In NC Says:

    Wow, interesting. Annie is the most obvious one I can think of because the Negro (bald with deep voice) did have magical powers. Wait until I share this term with my family.

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