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Brightest Africa

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Why was Africa called “darkest” Africa?

And why did that change?

Hollywood moviemakers often turn to science fiction to blend high adventure with spine tingling horror. In blockbusters from Forbidden Planet to Aliens, a strange and distant world is the setting for encounters with malevolent monsters.

When Hollywood was young, moviemakers used Africa in exactly the same way.  In early talkies and serials, lions, tigers and gorillas were portrayed as slavering beasts – always eager to pounce from the jungle shadows.  The notion of “Darkest Africa” was born in the film-going public’s imagination.

Today, Hollywood doesn’t portray the African wilderness that way, even in fantasy adventures. It is usually a sunny place, inhabited by friendly creatures… like the menagerie of The Lion King.  And if we think of real African animals, the word that springs to mind is not “evil” but “noble.”

The change in Hollywood movies, and in our perception, didn’t happen by accident.

We reveal how and why “Darkest Africa” became “Brightest Africa” in Museum Secrets: Inside the American Museum of Natural History.

Believe It Or Not

In 1936, Republic Pictures produced a 15-episode serial called Darkest Africa. Today, these films seem ludicrous and culturally insensitive. But if you want to see how much sensibilities have changed, we invite you to watch the trailer.



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