River Niger is a now largely forgotten film, a drama from 1976, starring, A-list actors Louis Gossett Jr., James Earl Jones, and Cicely Tyson. The film, set in a somewhat run down African American neighbourhood in Los Angeles, is largely set around the aspirations, hopes. disappointments and frustrations of a once-aspiring poet Johnny Williams (James Earl Jones) who now works a low-paying job as a painter and decorator in order to support his family. Williams is particularly proud of his son Jeff (Glynn Turman), an Air Force lieutenant, who, it transpires has his own demons and preoccupations that see him embroiled in a cast of characters including drug dealers, tensions with LAPD, and affairs of the heart involving his love interest. Johnny Williams' challenges are dramatically increased upon the news that his wife Mattie (Cicely Tyson), has her own battles with virulent cancer. The storylines build and interweave, leading to a dramatic climax in which Johnny Williams finds redemption and escape from his torment, even as he pays the ultimate price.

Much of the film is set within the household of the Williams' family, and noticeable on the wall of one of the rooms is a framed reproduction of one of the prints from Charles White’s Masses and Mainstream folio. We see the framed print - Ye Shall Inherit the Earth - at a number of points throughout the film. This was not the only framed Afrocentric artwork in the house, but it was the only one by Charles White. The framed print was a small, but highly significant decorative item within the home, speaking as it did to Black consciousness, and the importance of strong and positive images of African Americans, including women. The film had its lighthearted, comedic moments, though its central concerns had wider social implications and concerns. The title of the film related to Williams' signature poem, which betrayed more than a passing influence of Langston Hughes' The Negro Speaks of Rivers/I've known Rivers. River Niger is worth watching, if only for the important glimpses of one of Charles White’s signature pieces.