13 Black Witches In On-Screen History

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October 24th 2018

In our patriarchal society, witches on screen have provided empowering images of women being able to regain a sense of control over their lives and communities through the supernatural. Through Charmed, Hocus Pocus, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Bewitched and more, white witches got to be centered, reshaping their worlds with their powers in the mainstream. Black witches, however, rarely get the same opportunities to flex their magic over their oppressors on screen with the same sense of normalization. In honor of spooky season, though the pickings are slim, we've got you covered with a list of the most interesting Black witches on screen throughout history.

1) Klili Gordon in Ouanga

Fredi Washington as Klili Gordon in Ouanga. George Terwilliger Productions. Fredi Washington as Klili Gordon in Ouanga. George Terwilliger Productions.

Keeping it black and white (literally), this 1936 film centers around a Haitian voodoo priestess and plantation owner who curses her white male neighbor after he chooses to marry a white woman instead of her. Fredi Washington, who played Klili, was a pioneering Black actress whom you might recognize as Peola from the 1934 version of Imitation of Life. The anti-Blackness in some of the dialogue is disheartening but expected, considering the era. What's surprising is that they cast a Black woman to play a Black woman--progress considering that 1934's Chloe, Love Is Calling You was also about a Black voodoo priestess but the white Olive Borden starred in the title role.

2) Rochelle in The Craft

Rachel True as Rochelle in The Craft. Columbia Pictures. Rachel True as Rochelle in The Craft. Columbia Pictures.

Played by Half & Half’s Rachel True, Rochelle is a teenage witch in the white suburbs, whose outcast girlfriends also practice witchcraft. After they befriend a newcomer into their group, they all soon conjure up various spells and curses against those who've harmed them, until one of the witches gets out of hand.

3) Bonnie Bennett in The Vampire Diaries

Kat Graham as Bonnie Bennett in The Vampire Diaries. Warner Bros. Kat Graham as Bonnie Bennett in The Vampire Diaries. Warner Bros.

Rochelle's TV successor in the hearts of young Black girls who were into magic is no doubt Bonnie Bennett from The CW's The Vampire Diaries. Played by Kat Graham, Bonnie was always getting dragged into her white vampire friends' drama, and they would often take advantage of her bad-ass powers. Though she was constantly sacrificing herself for her friends, in the final two seasons, she and her powers really got to shine.

4) Sheila "Grams" Bennett in The Vampire Diaries

Jasmine Guy as Sheila "Grams" Bennett in The Vampire Diaries. Warner Bros. Jasmine Guy as Sheila "Grams" Bennett in The Vampire Diaries. Warner Bros.

Though Bonnie was in desperate need of better friends, she could always rely on her witch grandmother, "Grams," played by Jasmine Guy. Grams helped Bonnie harness her power and learn awesome spells, but, of course, was ultimately sacrificed by showrunner Julie Plec and the writers of the show to further the storylines of the white main cast. But even after her death, Grams would pop up every now and then on The Other Side, when Bonnie would get too close to human death.

5) Tia Dalma/Calypso in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma / Calypso in 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest' Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma / Calypso in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Walt Disney Pictures.

The Caribbean mystic played by Naomie Harris was the first Black woman with a prominent role in the Disney franchise. Dwelling in a bayou off the coast of Cuba, Tia Dalma was really the sea goddess Calypso, trapped in a human body. As a human, she had the power to see the future and into men's souls. She also could summon demons from the deep and maelstroms in the sea.

6) Marie Laveau in American Horror Story: Coven

Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau in American Horror Story: Coven. 20th Century Fox. Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau in American Horror Story: Coven. 20th Century Fox.

Two words : Angela Bassett. Portraying the historically renowned New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, the depth that she gave to this role is nothing short of mind-blowing.

7 and 8) Alex and Camryn in Twitches and Twitches Too

Tamera and Tia Mowry as Camryn and Alex in Twitches. Disney Channel. Tamera and Tia Mowry as Camryn and Alex in Twitches. Disney Channel.

This Halloween Disney classic stars two of Black America’s favorite onscreen sisters, Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Tamera Mowry-Housely. They play teen witches, Alex and Camryn who were separated at birth and adopted by two different families. They meet on their 21st birthday and must use their powers to save the world in which they were born, where their birth mother still lives. The sequel follows their quest to find their birth father and it's just as good as the first.

9, 10 and 11) Eve Batiste, Mozelle Batiste Delacroix and Elzora in Eve's Bayou

Jurnee Smollet as Eve, Debbi Morgan as Mozelle, Diahann Carroll as Elzora in Eve's Bayou. Trimark Pictures. Jurnee Smollet as Eve, Debbi Morgan as Mozelle, Diahann Carroll as Elzora in Eve's Bayou. Trimark Pictures.

Debbi Morgan and Diahann Carroll shine in this late 90s film that captures some of the essence of New Orleans voodoo in all its beauty. They star as Mozelle and Elzora, respectively, voodoo priestesses that play pivotal roles in helping (or hurting) the protagonist Eve Batiste, who is played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell. When Eve, who has supernatural abilities of her own, discovers that her family's affluent existence is merely a façade and her father and sister are keeping deep secrets, she takes matters into her own hands to make sense of it all.

12) The Seer in Charmed

Debbi Morgan as The Seer in Charmed. Paramount Television. Debbi Morgan as The Seer in Charmed. Paramount Television.

Debbi Morgan gives us life again as The Seer on the fourth and fifth seasons of Charmed. The powerful upper-level demon could see the future and had an immunity to spells. Too bad she was only on 8 episodes in two seasons of the eight seasons Charmed lasted, from 1998-2006.

13) Prudence in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Tati Gabrielle as Prudence in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Netflix. Tati Gabrielle as Prudence in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Netflix.

Tati Gabrielle plays Prudence, a witch in this Netflix dark reboot of the classic Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. Prudence is the leader of a trio of witches called The Weird Sisters at the Academy of Unseen Arts, where they all go to school to harness their powers. The show premieres on Oct 26, 2018, so we have yet to see how Prudence will get to flex her powers, but Gabrielle is a series regular, allowing for a strong possibility that she'll get to be a fully fleshed out and powerful Black witch for the new school generation.

Honorable Mentions:

Beloved in Beloved: In the film adaptation of Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, Thandi Newton plays the title character, a poltergeist of a baby killed by her mother to protect Beloved from growing up in slavery. As a poltergeist, Beloved also casts spells that punish her mother, disrupt her family's household and entrance her mother's boyfriend so that she can rape him and break up her mother's relationship. Black witches on screen don't always use their power for good, and Beloved is definitely one of them.

The Witches of The Wiz: Okay, roll with me here. Though definitely not the focus of the film, you cannot ignore the majesty of Lena Horne in her portrayal as Glinda the Good Witch on the 40th anniversary of this late 1970s classic. The Wiz Live: Mary J. Blige as the Wicked Witch of the West. Amber Riley as the Good Witch of the North. Uzo Aduba as Glinda the Good Witch. I mean seriously? I wouldn’t dare put any hateration or holleration on this amazing trio.

Nova Bordelon in Queen Sugar: While her family and activism frame much of Nova Bordelon’s narrative, there’s evidence and mention of her hoodoo root work, especially in the first few seasons.

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