Above all, we must remember the black worker was the ultimate exploited; that he formed that mass of labor which had neither wish nor power to escape from the labor status, in order to directly exploit other laborers, or indirectly, by alliance with capital, to share in their exploitation. To be sure, the black mass, developed again and again, here and there, capitalistic groups in New Orleans, in Charleston and in Philadelphia; groups willing to join white capital in exploiting labor; but they were driven back into the mass by racial prejudice before they had reached a permanent foothold; and thus became all the more bitter against all organization which by means of race prejudice, or the monopoly of wealth, sought to exclude men from making a living.
It was thus the black worker, as founding stone of a new economic system in the nineteenth century and for the modern world, who brought civil war in America. He was its underlying cause, in spite of every effort to base the strife upon union and national power.
That dark and vast sea of human labor in China and India, the South Seas and all Africa; in the West Indies and Central America and in the United States — that great majority of mankind, on whose bent and broken backs rest today the founding stones of modern industry — shares a common destiny; it is despised and rejected by race and color; paid a wage below the level of decent living; driven, beaten, prisoned and enslaved in all but name; spawning the world’s raw material and luxury — cotton, wool, coffee, tea, cocoa, palm oil, fibers, spices, rubber, silks, lumber, copper, gold, diamonds, leather — how shall we end the list and where? All these are gathered up at prices lowest of the low, manufactured, transformed and transported at fabulous gain; and the resultant wealth is distributed and displayed and made the basis of world power and universal dominion and armed arrogance in London and Paris, Berlin and Rome, New York and Rio de Janeiro.
Here is the real modern labor problem. Here is the kernel of the problem of Religion and Democracy, of Humanity. Words and futile gestures avail nothing. Out of the exploitation of the dark proletariat comes the Surplus Value filched from human beasts which, in cultured lands, the Machine and harnessed Power veil and conceal. The emancipation of man is the emancipation of labor and the emancipation of labor is the freeing of that basic majority of workers who are yellow, brown and black.
W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1935, p.15-16
Black Orpheus (Portuguese: Orfeu Negro) is a 1959 film made in Brazil by French director Marcel Camus and starring Marpessa Dawn and Breno Mello. It is based on the play Orfeu da Conceição by Vinicius de Moraes, which is an adaptation of the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in the modern context of a favela in Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval. The film was an international co-production between production companies in Brazil, France and Italy.
Producer: First I just want to say how much we all adore the film.
Director: Thank you.
Producer: the whole concept is just fantastic, retelling the Greek myth of Orpheus in modern-day Rio de Janeiro is simply inspired.
Director: I’m happy to hear you say that.
Producer: We do have some notes about the title.
Director: I like the title.
Producer: It’s a fine title, but maybe it’s a little on the nose.
Director: How do you mean?
Producer: Well, “Black Orpheus” feels like one of those first-round-of-brainstorming ideas.
Director: Orpheus is black in it.
Producer: The accuracy of the title isn’t what’s in question here, but we were thinking maybe something with a little more mystery. You have so much to work with here, Carnival, the music, the pageantry, his love for Eurydice, the character of Death. We’re afraid you might be underselling it.
Director: But see it’s Orpheus, except black.
Producer: I’m right there with you, one-hundred percent, but really, for the sake of minimlaism, you can just call it “Orpheus.”
Director: But then people will be like “who’s that black dude, I thought Orpheus was in this.” It’s confusing.
Producer: You know what, there’s no rush, take your time with it, bounce it around that genius head of yours, you are the artist and I am a mere patron.
[Director leaves the office.]
Producer: Jesus Christ this thing is going to be a trainwreck.
Producer: Shame on me for ever doubting you. Whatever project you want, come to me, it’s done.
Director: Mexican Iliad.
Producer: …I’m all in, champ.
Director: It’ll be like the Iliad except they’re all Mexican