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The Magic Negro

Those people who consider themselves experts on such matters, define a magic negro as a supporting, often mystical stock character in fiction who, by use of special insight or powers, helps the white protagonist get out of trouble. He is patient and wise, often dispensing various words of wisdom. The word negro, now considered to be archaic and offensive, is used intentionally to suggest that the archetype is a racist throwback, an update of the Sambo and savage other stereotypes.

The magic negro serves as a plot device to help the protagonist get out of trouble, typically through helping the white character recognize his own faults and overcome them. Although he has magical powers, his magic is ostensibly directed toward helping and enlightening a white male character. It is this feature of the magic negro that some people find most troubling. Although from a certain perspective the character may seem to be showing blacks in a positive light, he is still ultimately subordinate to whites. He is also regarded as an exception, allowing white folk to like individual black people but not black culture.

Examples of magic negroes include:
  • Sidney Poitier in the films The Defiant Ones, To Sir, With Love, Lilies of the Field and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.
  • Michael Clarke Duncan as John Coffey in The Green Mile.
  • Bill Cobbs as Moses the Clock Man in The Hudsucker Proxy.
  • Morgan Freeman as Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding in the The Shawshank Redemption.
  • Morgan Freeman as God in the films Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty.
  • Morgan Freeman as Eddie "Scrap Iron" Dupris in Million Dollar Baby.
  • Gloria Foster and Mary Alice as Oracle in The Matrix trilogy.
  • Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in The Matrix trilogy.

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