Cora Unashamed (2000)

From the short story by Langston Hughes.

"Cora Unashamed" is a 2000 American drama movie based on the narrative of the same title by American author Langston Hughes, part of his narrative collection The Ways of White Folks. The movie, directed by Deborah Pratt and produced by Demmie Todd, aired on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre. It stars Regina Taylor as the title character, Cherry Jones, and Arliss Howard.

Plot Summary
"Cora Unashamed" is a poignant tale set in Melton, Iowa in the early 20th century. Cora Jenkins is the only African-American citizen in the town, who works as a house maid for the Studevant family. She's devoted to her only daughter, Josephine, who she raises to be independent, self-respecting, and educated, regardless of the prevalent racial bias. When Josephine falls ill and dies due to pneumonia, Cora is ravaged.

Meanwhile, Cora also witnesses the hazardous environment in the upscale white family she works for. Mr. Studevant is a philanderer and Mrs. Studevant is a narcissist, more worried about her stature than her own kids. Their daughter, Jessie, is left in Cora's nurturing care, and Jessie and Cora develop a deep bond, much comparable to a mother-daughter relationship.

Jessie deals with social pressure and familial neglect, resulting in teenage pregnancy. She brings to life a baby but Mrs. Studevant ushers the baby away to prevent scandal, much to Jessie's distress. Cora, defenseless as she sees history repeat itself, finally breaks her silence.

Secret Themes
A defining theme of "Cora Unashamed" is racial and socio-economic disparity. Cora's strength and durability juxtapose with the hypocrisy and moral failure of the well-to-do Studevants. The film touches on the inequities, bigotry, and the struggle for survival dealt with by African-Americans during the time.

Additionally, the storyline wonderfully captures the maternal strength and sacrificial love, stressed by contrasting Cora's nurturing nature with Mrs. Studevant's neglect. The pile-up of emotional distress results in an effective climax, where Cora bravely exposes the household's heartlessness at Jessie's funeral.

Recognition and Reception
"Cora Unashamed" was gotten favorably for the poignant portrayal of a marginalized lady's strength in the face of racism and class variation. The movie, in its slow-paced, reliable storytelling, produces pathos, agitation, and affection at the same time. Regina Taylor's extensive performance as Cora, harnessing a quiet strength and exhibiting self-respect, garnered applause from audiences and critics alike.

"Cora Unashamed" is not just a motion picture; it's a testament to the human spirit. The story pays homage to every unrecognized Cora in society-- inconspicuous and unashamed, who bear the difficult yoke of race, class, and gender injustice with stoic perseverance. Through the narrative, the movie highlights the disheartening tragedies that originate from bias, and impels viewers to assess society's seriously flawed values. Later, what lingers is Cora's indomitable self-respect and motherly love that paints a moving image of nerve and hope in the middle of anguish.

Top Cast

  • Regina Taylor (small)
    Regina Taylor
    Cora Jenkins
  • Cherry Jones (small)
    Cherry Jones
    Lizbeth Studevant
  • Ellen Muth (small)
    Ellen Muth
    Jessie a 18 anni
  • Michael Gaston (small)
    Michael Gaston
    Arthur Studevant
  • Kohl Sudduth (small)
    Kohl Sudduth
  • Arlen Dean Snyder (small)
    Arlen Dean Snyder
    Dr. Siebels
  • CCH Pounder (small)
    CCH Pounder
    Ma Jenkins