WUSTL Digital Gateway Image Collections & Exhibitions


The films Sounder and Cooley High, both released in the 1970s, illustrate black adolescence through cultural context, social relationships, and performance of masculinity. Sounder is a Hollywood film produced with a budget of $900,000 and directed by Martin Ritt. It was distributed by 20th Century Fox and released in 1972 to American audiences. A tale of daily survival for the Morgan Family, Sounder addresses the experiences of a Louisiana sharecropping family by focusing on the adolescent David Lee. Cooley High was produced and released in 1975 by the independent production company American International Pictures and was directed by Michael Schultz with a budget of $750,000. The film narrates the challenges within the lives of a group of teenagers living in the north side of Chicago. While Sounder focuses on the gendered and racialized experiences of a rural family during the Great Depression, Cooley High concerns the lives of teenagers who have agency in building social relationships as a means of navigating their urban environment. This exhibit will analyze promotional materials from both films in order to discover how they portray the cultural context, the social relationships, and the performance of masculinity.