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Barbara O. Jones, Actress Who Brought Black Cinema to Life, Dies at 82

Barbara O. Jones, an actress whose captivating work in films like “Bush Mama” and “Daughters of the Dust” helped define the cerebral, experimental and highly influential Black cinema movement that emerged in Los Angeles in the 1970s, died on April 8 at her home in Dayton, Ohio. She was 82.

Her brother Marlon Minor confirmed the death but said the cause had not been determined.

Starting in the early 1970s just a few miles from Hollywood, a generation of students at the University of California, Los Angeles, began making films that pushed hard against many of the tropes of commercial moviemaking.

Budding filmmakers like Charles Burnett, Julie Dash and Haile Gerima eschewed polished scripts and linear narratives in search of an authentic Black cinematic language. They relied on actors like Mrs. Jones, drawn from far outside the mainstream, to bring their work to life.

Mrs. Jones was in some ways the typical Los Angeles transplant, having moved from the Midwest in search of a film career. She took acting classes, but, rather than gravitating toward Hollywood, she fell in with the politically charged, aesthetically adventurous scene around the U.C.L.A. film school, a movement that the film scholar Clyde Taylor called the L.A. Rebellion.

She appeared in several short student films, including Mr. Gerima’s “Child of Resistance” (1973), in which she played an imprisoned activist loosely based on Angela Davis, and Ms. Dash’s “Diary of an African Nun” (1977), adapted from a short story by Alice Walker.

Mrs. Jones in Ms. Dash’s short film “Diary of an African Nun” (1977), adapted from a story by Alice Walker.Credit…Julie Dash

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