Duane Jones never thought he’d make movie history when he took a role in a zombie movie. It was just an acting job. And Jones was the best actor George Romero could find for his low-budget film. In 1967, it was simply practical. In 2022, it looks like genius.
Jones’ performance as Ben in 1968’s horror classic Night of the Living Dead is not only powerful, it changed Hollywood. It was the first time a black actor starred in a movie where he was simple a character and not a black character. It was both subtle and groundbreaking at the same time.
Unfortunately, it was also one of Jones’ few film performances. But Hollywood’s loss was academia’s gain. His years with Long Island University, Antioch College and the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art changed the lives of many students and young actors.
On what would have been Jones’ 85th birthday, Halloween Every Night celebrates him as part of Black History Month.