Mel Donalson

About Mel Donalson

Mel’s popular essays have appeared in numerous periodicals, including Upscale; the African American Review; Obsidian; The Independent Film and Video Monthly; the Pasadena Weekly; and Chicken Soup for the African American Soul.

In addition, his short stories have been published in various journals, such as Words of Wisdom; Tucumcari Literary Journal; Obsidian II: Black Literature in Review; and Full Moon: Reflections from Writers and Artists. His three novels include The River Woman; Communion; and The Third Woman.

Mel’s poetry has been included in a number of publications, including Focus Magazine; The Great American Poetry Show; and the African American Review. In 2018, he joined the Pasadena Rose Poets, a group organized in response to the city’s celebration of the creative arts. For two years, the poetry group shared their work with audiences at Town Hall meetings, Community Centers, Libraries, and Bookstores. By the Fall of 2019, the Pasadena Rose Poets: Poetry Collection was published, and it contained nine of Mel’s poems. Two of his poems were included in the annual publication, The Altadena Literary Review 2020. Additionally in 2020, he was invited to write a poem, “Outbreak,” and the “Afterword” for a timely anthology, entitled When the Virus Came Calling: Covid-19 Strikes America.

altadena lit review 2020

when virus came

When arriving to Los Angeles in the 1980s, Mel followed the familiar path of writing feature scripts; writing television spec scripts; searching for agents; networking; attending screenings; and writing more scripts. He worked part-time as a Film Analyst for New World Pictures; a script writer for DIC Comics; and writer/researcher for Creative Imagery Productions. In 1988, he was a quarter-finalist in the Nicholls Fellowship Screenwriting Competition.

By the late 1990s, Mel was the Writer-Director on his first short film, titled A Room Without Doors (1998). With collaboration from Producer Jacqueline George, the film starred Michael Beach and Dick Anthony Williams. The 30-minute film that was accepted and screened at numerous film festivals and programs: the New York Independent Film and Video Festival; the Hollywood Black Film Festival; the Urban World Film Festival; the Black Harvest Film Festival; the African American Film Marketplace; the Hollywood Entertainment Museum Film Festival; and the Roxbury Film Festival. The film was one of five finalists that was broadcasted on Showtime Network’s Black Filmmaker’s Showcase.

Years later, Mel initiated a second short film project, titled Performance (2008). With the support of Executive Producer Bakari Kitwana, Mel was the Writer and Director of the film, which starred Art Evans and Nisa Ward. Working with Producer David Massey, the film was accepted into numerous film festivals and programs: the Texas Black Film Festival; The Women of Color Arts and Film Festival; the Hollywood Black Film Festival; the Roxbury Film Festival; the Int’l Ethnic Studies Conference at San Francisco State University; the San Diego Black Film Festival; the Black Harvest Film Festival; the Pan African Film Festival; the Beverly Hills Film, TV, and New Media Festival; the 17th African American Marketplace, Los Angeles; the African American Studies Association Conference, Baton Rouge; and the Sonja Haynes Black Culture Center at the University of North Carolina. 

Since 2008, Mel has worked on short film projects for Urban Christian Entertainment Films, serving as a writer on the film Taking A Stand, and as Associate Producer on the film, Higher Note. In 2013, he was also an Executive Producer on the short film, Island Song, which screened at the Pan African Film Festival.

In 2017, Mel’s one-act play, The Corner, was selected for the Paul Robeson Theater Festival at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. In that same year, Mel staged his two-act drama, Shout, which he wrote, produced, and directed. The play was performed at the Fremont Theatre in South Pasadena, CA.

In 2021, he was an Associate Producer on the documentary film, Medical Racism: The New Apartheid. In that same year, he was the Writer-Producer on the live-action short film, Passage, which was screened at six film festivals. Currently, he and his partners are developing a documentary film that focuses on the Congressional Black Caucus.


Mel attended Bates College, in Lewiston, Maine, where he was an American History major. Upon receiving his B.A., Mel taught for one year in the English Department at Barnstable High School, his former secondary school. Moving to the Midwest, he attended the University of Iowa where he earned his M.A. in American Studies. He returned to Bates College as a Lecturer in the English Department for one year and then attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, to earn his Ph.D. in American Studies. His doctorate focused on four academic areas: African American Studies; American Literature in the 20th Century; American Film History; and the History of American Women. During his career as a Professor, he taught on numerous campuses, including University of California-Santa Barbara; Pasadena City College; UCLA; and California State University-Los Angeles.


Editor, Cornerstones: An Anthology of African American Literature, St. Martin's Press, February 1996

Author, Black Directors in Hollywood, University of Texas Press, December 2003

Author, Masculinity in the Interracial Buddy Film, McFarland Publishers, Inc., March 2006

Author, Hip Hop in American Cinema, Peter Lang Publishers, March 2007

Associate Editor, Encyclopedia: Twentieth Century African American Literature, Facts on File, Inc.,

             October 2007


“The Color Line in the American Novel,” American Novel Online, Educational Broadcasting

                 Corporation, Thirteen/WNET, New York, April 2007

“Julie Dash”/ “Ossie Davis”/ “Devil in a Blue Dress”/ “Langston Hughes”/ “Spike Lee”/ “Walter

                   Mosley”/ “Gordon Parks”/ “Jervey Tervalon”/ “Melvin Van Peebles”—Contributor in 

                  The Encyclopedia of African-American Literature,  Facts on File, Inc., October 2007

“African American Traditions and the American Novel,” The Blackwell Companion to the

                American Novel, edited by Alfred Bendixen, Blackwell Publishers, March 2012

“Denzel Washington: A Revisionist Masculinity,” Pretty People: Screen Stars of the 1990s,

                edited by Anna Everett, American Culture/American Cinema Series, Rutger University

                Press, May 2012

“Inside Men: Black Masculinity in the Films of Spike Lee and John Singleton,” Millennial

               Masculinity: Men in Contemporary American Cinema, edited by Tim Shary, Wayne

               State University Press, September 2012