Highlighting Ten Black Characters in Star Wars
As I'm sure you're well aware, February, and therefore Black History Month, is coming to an end. Though celebration of Black people, their culture and their history should not be confined to a singular month, it should still be recognized. To send off this month, I'd like to highlight ten of my favorite Black characters in Star Wars who have made an impact on the galaxy far, far away.
Avon is a character in the High Republic novel A Test of Courage (which you can read a review of here where I go more in depth on Avon's character), and an ancestor of Sana Starros. Avon is very young in A Test of Courage, but still clever and important to the team. Avon is bright and very skilled with technology, able to use it best to her advantage and even invent new machines, both to satiate boredom and to help herself and her friends out of tough spots. Avon is a really inspiring character who saves the older children in the book more than once, and has an admirable devotion to freedom- even going so far as to modify her droid to allow her to have more autonomy. Avon was absolutely a highlight of the book for me, and she was a lovable and fun character as much as she was a smart one.
Mace Windu is a really stand-out character among the Jedi, and not only because of his signature purple lightsaber and the fact that he's played by Samuel L. Jackson. Windu is pretty dogmatic within the Jedi beliefs, and while that earns him criticism from many fans, it's also something I find can be admirable too. For example, he really exemplifies the Jedi ideal of compassion with the clones under his command in The Clone Wars, as well as freedom fighters and even droids. Mace Windu is a fierce warrior, but as we learned in the Choose Your Destiny books, also a former actor in the theater. It's these multifaceted aspects to his character that make me really like Mace Windu, despite some of his flaws.
Steela Gerrera is the inspiring leader from Onderon in The Clone Wars. Steela is a resilient and courageous leader. She's a quick learner, and is able to build the skills taught to her by the Jedi and the clones. She uses her strong voice and passion to inspire those on Onderon to rise up against the Separatist occupation. Though Steela is killed in the battle, her memory lives on through her family and the people that she encouraged to rise up against oppression, and her inspiring strength and abilities are never forgotten, and used to advocate around the galaxy.
And of course, I can't talk about Steela without mentioning her brother, Saw. While Saw Gerrera may not initially have been such a natural-born leader as his sister in The Clone Wars, that soon changes after her death. Saw Gerrera leads his own group of rebels against the Empire during their reign, and though he may not see eye-to-eye with the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars Rebels, his impact on the galaxy in the fight against the Empire was still important. Not only was he a strong fighter, but he was also a kind father figure to young Jyn Erso when he rescued her after the Empire raided her home, as we see in the novel Rebel Rising. Though they didn't part on the best of terms the first time, they have an emotional reunion showing their love for one another, and Saw's death tugs at the heart strings every time in Rogue One.
Admittedly my experience with Sana Starros content is limited to the Doctor Aphra audiodrama, as I have yet to read the comics that I know she's in. But despite my limited time spent with her, I do love Sana a lot. I really enjoyed the parts of the audiodrama from when she and Aphra were in college together. She was smart and kind, but also unafraid to throw little jabs at people who earned them. She was also devoted to learning- earning her the nickname "Studious Sana." At the end of the audiodrama, Sana and Aphra have a tense reunion where they both bicker a little bit, but the lingering feelings are still very clearly there. I've still got a lot of books to read before I dive into the comics, but I can't wait to get to know Sana more personally in them.
Lando Calrissian is a character I love, and one I especially love after his appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Lando is most notably the first major Black character in Star Wars, appearing in The Empire Strikes Back and then Return of the Jedi, and he's since been a staple in many books and comics, even appearing in Star Wars Rebels, The Rise of Skywalker and of course, Solo: A Star Wars Story. While Lando is of course a suave, well-dressed smuggler, he's also a responsible leader who cares for the people in his leadership, and his friends. Not to mention, he's the hero who destroyed the second Death Star at the end of the Galactic Civil War. But for me, what comes first to mind when I think of Lando (besides maybe his cool capes) is what he says to Poe Dameron in The Rise of Skywalker in one of my favorite scenes from the movie- "We had each other. That's how we won." I, like I hope many of you do, am definitely looking forward to the Lando Calrissian series that's been announced.
Talking to Vi Moradi definitely a highlight of going to Batuu. Vi is a fun, dynamic character who's willing to pull any would-be member of the Resistance to help them fight the First Order. She's a funny character, and a cunning spy that knows how to get around the First Order without being caught (most of the time). During my trip to Batuu, Vi Moradi spent a lot of time with Lizzy, Axel and I, showing us around, sending us on missions to help her dodge the First Order, and telling us all about her life. It was definitely my favorite part of the day, and it was a lot of fun getting to know such a great character in such a personal way. Another thing I love about Vi Moradi in Galaxy's Edge is what she represents for Black actors- there aren't as many opportunities in the Disney parks for actors of color, let alone Black actors, to get to play characters that look like them and interact with guests, and Vi Moradi provides another opportunity for them.
Tam is my favorite character in Star Wars Resistance, and I think undoubtedly among the most compelling. Tam is a kind character who wants to help people, and also values honesty. She cares for her friends, but is hurt when she doesn't think that they care for her the same way she does for them. Through the manipulations of Agent Tierny, Tam is pushed into joining the First Order, something she eventually regrets, and she tries to return home to the Colossus. Tam Ryvora is an extremely relatable character who goes through a fascinating personal journey where she has to grapple with her mistakes and try to get the forgiveness of her former friends, as well as trying to prove herself as a pilot.
Finn, in my opinion, is the most inspiring out of all of the characters on this list. Played by John Boyega, he is the first Black character to lead a Star Wars film, and has a really inspirational story arc. Finn goes from a kidnapped child raised to be an obedient stormtrooper to a Resistance general that leads the fight that ends the First Order- the organization that tried to beat him down- once and for all. Though the First Order tried to raise Finn to be subservient, Finn is anything but. He's boldly independent, making dangerous choices in order to free himself, and then to benefit the galaxy and his friends. Finn shows time and time again that he's willing to sacrifice himself for the people and causes that he holds dear, and in return his friends show that same devotion back and endanger themselves to rescue him. Finn is a character beloved in-universe, and one that certainly doesn't get half of the credit that he deserves in the real world.
Finally, I'd like to include Jannah from The Rise of Skywalker. While she may not have as much screentime as others on this list, she's still inspiring. Like Finn, she is a former First Order stormtrooper who made a choice to escape for freedom, and then to fight for the benefit of the galaxy. Jannah is kind and willing to help others, even going with Finn to try and rescue Rey from Kylo Ren, braving the dangerous waters and ruins of the second Death Star. She also plays a pivotal role in the battle over Exegol where they finally destroy the First Order, bringing peace to the galaxy at last. At the end of the film, she and Lando have a conversation about trying to find her family- and I definitely look forward to whenever and however that story will be told to us.
And of course, there are plenty more notable Black characters in Star Wars for you to find across the countless films, series, games, comic books, novels and more, there are just a few that I'm particularly fond of. Representation matters, and I encourage you to always keep that in mind through everything you read or watch- Star Wars or not, during Black History Month or not.
In the related posts section below this post, I've attached some reviews for Star Wars books I didn't mention already that prominently include Black characters, and I hope you decide to read those books for yourself and support them.