March 20th – Director Spike Lee was born Shelton Jackson Lee in Atlanta, Georgia, on this day in 1957.
Aside from directing, producing and co-starring in some of the greatest films of all time like “Do The Right Thing”, “Malcolm X”, “School Daze”, “Jungle Fever”, “Mo’ Betta Blues” and “Bamboozled”, Lee has also directed music videos for Prince, Tracy Chapman, A Tribe Called Quest, Naughty By Nature and Public Enemy, to name a few.
Throughout the years Lee’s usage of actors and actresses in his films have helped to propel many of them to superstardom like Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Giancarlo Esposito, Wesley Snipes, Bill Nunn, Theresa Randle, John and Nicholas Turturro, Charlie Murphy and John Luguizamo.
Lee has also worked with legendary thespians such as the late Ossie Davis and his wife Ruby Dee, Jim Brown, Jodie Foster, Danny Aiello, Anthony Quinn, Halle Berry, Christopher Plummer and Angela Bassett.
Lee’s 40 Acres And A Mule production company has produced other noteworthy films such as “She’s Gotta Have It”, “Crooklyn”, “Clockers”, “Girl 6”, “Get On The Bus”, “Summer Of Sam”, “25th Hour”, “She Hate Me”, “Inside Man” and “Miracle At St. Anna.”
Lee has also directed documentaries on The Black Panther Party For Self Defense co-founder Huey P. Newton and football legend Jim Brown.
He’s also directed award-winning documentaries like 1997’s “4 Little Girls” about the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four young Black girls and 2006’s “When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts”, about the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster which left a large amount of primarily African-American homes destroyed and took close to 1500 lives.
The marketing wing of 40 Acres And A Mule also directed commercials for Nike, Converse, Taco Bell, Jaguar and Ben & Jerry’s.
Lee has also directed the stand-up comedy films “Freak” and “The Original Kings Of Comedy.”
In 1998, Public Enemy was commissioned by Lee to score the entire basketball drama “He Got Game”, marking the first time a rap group scored an entire feature film.
Aside from prominently featuring P.E.’s “Fight The Power” throughout 1989’s “Do The Right Thing”, Lee has also featured the music of several hip-hop artists in his films throughout the years like Arrested Development, KRS-One, Goodie Mob and Common.
Lee has also featured hip-hop artists in acting roles in his films as well like Mos Def, MC Serch, Charli Baltimore, Canibus, Q-Tip and Queen Latifah, to name a few. Early in his career, Lee’s films were set in the neighborhood of Brooklyn, where he grew up after relocating from Atlanta. Lee’s later films would take on a more universal and international setting.
Lee studied film-making at Clark Atlanta University and graduated with a B.A. in Mass Communications at Atlanta’s famed Morehouse College. Lee would also earn a Masters of Fine Arts in film and television at New York’s University’s Tisch School Of The Arts.