Shaft: America’s race politics from Black Power to Black Lives Matter

John Shaft, the African American private eye introduced by Ernest Tidyman in a novel of 1970, has proved surprisingly resilient as a character on the big screen.

You might have thought that Samuel L. Jackson’s second-generation Shaft in 2000 – which followed the three 1970s films – would bring closure to the franchise. But now there’s a third-generation Shaft, set in contemporary New York, which puts at the characters’ disposal computers and smartphones, rather than simply guns and Molotov cocktails.

This latest version, simply called Shaft, reflects current patterns of film exhibition, having had a brief run in US cinemas before being streamed globally by Netflix.

The name “John Shaft” is, on this occasion, no one’s exclusive property, but actually shared by three of the male protagonists.

Jackson appears again, but alongside two namesakes: his father (played by Richard Roundtree, who took the title role in the three films of the early 1970s) and his son (played by Jessie L. Usher and, to minimise confusion, usually referred to on screen as “JJ”).

At the start of the new film, several montages take the viewer through recent decades of African American social and cultural history. Iconic figures and events flicker briefly on screen: OJ Simpson’s trial in 1995 gives way to Barack Obama’s inauguration as US president in 2009, while an image of rapper The Notorious B.I.G. is replaced by one of basketball superstar LeBron James.

The device is principally, of course, an orientation aid for the audience, given the film’s multi-generational plotting. More profoundly, however, the sense of time passing prompts us to ask what Shaft signified for black America in the early 1970s and again in 2000 – and what he might mean in this latest incarnation...

Dr Andrew Dix, of the School of Creative Arts, discusses the newly released Shaft in the Conversation. Read the full article here.  

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 19/95

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2019 QS World University Rankings, University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019 and top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 and 8th in The UK Complete University Guide 2020.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.


Loughborough staff, students and alumni make a real difference. They challenge convention, think creatively and find solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing society today and in the future.

Meet the #LboroGameChangers at