The Legend of Nigger Charley

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The Legend of Nigger Charley
Directed by Martin Goldman
Produced by Larry Spangler
Written by James Warner Bellah (story),
Martin Goldman,
Larry Spangler
Starring Fred Williamson,
D'Urville Martin,
Don Pedro Colley,
Gertrude Jeanette,
Marcia McBroom,
Alan Gifford
Music by John Bennings
Cinematography Peter Eco
Edited by Howard Kuperman
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 17, 1972 (1972-03-17)
Running time 98 min
Country United States
Language English

The Legend of Nigger Charley is a 1972 blaxploitation western film directed by Martin Goldman. The story of a trio of escaped slaves, it was released during the heyday of blaxploitation films.

The film stars Fred Williamson as Nigger Charley. The film is rated PG in the United States. It was followed by two sequels, The Soul of Nigger Charley and Boss Nigger.

The film was renamed The Legend of Black Charley for broadcast television.[1]


Charley, after undergoing a beating by white men, escapes with two fellow slaves before being sold to a different plantation owner. He is put up for sale after his ailing plantation owner says he can no longer afford him.

The three fugitives are put down when they engage in everyday activities. For instance, when Charley asks a bartender for three beers, he is asked, "Don't you know your place, nigger?" In response, Charley beats a patron and forces the bartender to flee.

He then tells his friends, "I ain't never gonna be a slave again for no man ... I ain't taking no shit from no white man again. I'm a free man, and that's the way I'm gonna die."

The three seek their freedom in the Old West. But they are chased by a gang of white men on horseback, who vow not to let them go free. Throughout their journey, the escaped slaves meet villains and violence.

The film ends with Charley and his friend, Toby, surviving an intense shootout and riding off. Toby asks "Where shall we go now, Charley?" Charley responds "Don't matter. Wherever we go, there's trouble waiting for us."


The Legend of Nigger Charley was one of Paramount's highest-grossing movies of 1972. Leading up to its release, a banner in Times Square read, "Nigger Charley Is Coming."[2]

When it was released in 1972, critic Roger Ebert awarded the film two stars out of four, criticizing it for being repetitive and exploitative. However, Ebert also wrote that

The Legend of Nigger Charley is frustrating partly because of the high level of acting talent in the cast. When you see fine actors being thrown into exploitative scripts, you begin to get a little angry. If the current group of black-oriented movies has proven anything, it's that there's a large pool of skilled and interesting black actors in Hollywood. Whether it will forever be necessary for them to waste their talents in dumb screenplays is a question that must come to them sometimes late at night. [3]

New York Times film critic Howard Thompson also gave the film a luke-warm review, calling it "fair." He wrote that the film generally "rambles and dawdles, resolving tensions with conventional shootouts, like any standard Western."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Internet Movie Database. ""The Legend of Nigger Charley"". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-01-22. 
  2. ^ Briggs, Joe Bob (June 28, 2003). Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking Movies That Changed History. Universe Publishing. p. 129. 
  3. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 23, 1972). ""The Legend of Nigger Charley"". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-01-22. 
  4. ^ Thompson, Howard (May 18, 1972). ""The Legend of Nigger Charley"". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-01-22. 

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