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Melvin Van Peebles, Icon of Black Cinema dies at 89

Melvin Van Peebles
FILE – Gotham Tribute Honors recipient, filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles attends the 18th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008, in New York. Van Peebles, a Broadway playwright, musician and movie director whose work ushered in the “blaxploitation” films of the 1970s, has died at age 89. His family said in a statement that Van Peebles died Tuesday night, Sept. 21, 2021, at his home. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, File)

Melvin Van Peebles was an American actor, filmmaker, playwright, novelist and composer. He was most well known for creating and starring in the film “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song,” and father of director and actor Mario Van Peebles.

Has died. He was 89.

His son Mario Van Peebles announced the news on hos passing Wednesday along with the Criterion Collection and Janus Films.

No cause of death was given.

“Sweet Sweetback” is an iconic blaxploitation film starring Van Peebles as a Black male prostitute named Sweet Sweetback who goes on the run from white cops after saving a Black Panther from a racist attack.

Born in Chicago, Melvin Van Peebles spent three and a half years in the U.S. Air Force before making his first short film in 1957. “Pickup Men for Herrick.” He also spent some time in France, publishing 4 novels and multiple short stories.

He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1953.

Peebles also wrote a about 6 stage plays and released seven studio albums as part of his revolutionary career.