Melvin Van Peebles, who died Sept. 21, was best known for his 1971 film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. He spoke with Fresh Air in 1990. His son Mario, also an actor/director, was interviewed in 2004.
Hill's best known for his blaxploitation films, "Coffy" and "Foxy Brown" which he both wrote and directed. He was a classmate of Francis Ford Coppola and during the 60s he and Coppola worked for the master of the exploitation films, Roger Corman. Hill worked on the last of Boris Karloff's films. His 1975 film "Switchblade Sister" is now being re-released under the aegis of Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Films.
Hayes rose to the top of the charts in the 1970's on the Staxl record label. He released his first solo album, "Presenting Isaac Hayes," in 1968. His next album, "Hot Buttered Soul," became a gold record in the 1970's.
Parks directed the early black action film, Shaft. His son, who died in 1979, was also a director. The elder Parks began his career as a photographer for Vogue and Life, and documented difficult aspects of the African American experience. He's just written his memoir, "Voices in the Mirror."
Actress Pam Grier. She got her start playing tough, scantily-clad women in black exploitation films, such as "Black Mama, White Mama," "Foxy Brown," and "Sheba Baby." She played a hooker in "Fort Apache: The Bronx," and is now appearing in the new film, "The Class of 1999."
Wayans wrote, directed, and starred in the new movie I'm Gonna Git You, Sucka, which is both a parody of and homage to the blaxploitation movies of the 1970s. He says those films were notable for creating more complex roles for African American men.