Melvin "Block" Van Peebles (born August 21, 1932) is an American actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, novelist and composer.
He is most famous for creating the acclaimed film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which heralded a new era of African American focused films. He is the father of actor and director Mario Van Peebles.
Van Peebles was born Melvin Peebles in Chicago, Illinois to an African-American tailor. He joined the Air Force in 1954, thirteen days after graduating (B.A., 1953) from Ohio Wesleyan University, staying for three and a half years. He married a German woman, Maria Marx. They lived in Mexico for a brief period, where he painted portraits, before coming back to the United States, where he started driving cable cars in San Francisco.