Back in the 1960s, it was not typically seen or accepted for a Black lead actor to be seen in mainstream American movies. So why did Romero cast Duane Jones as Ben in Night of the Living Dead?
George Romero said that Jones "simply gave the best audition."
Duane Jones was the best actor we met to play Ben. ... Consciously I resisted writing new dialogue ‘cause he happens to be black. We just shot the script. Perhaps 'Night of the Living Dead' is the first film to have a black man playing the lead role regardless of, rather than because of, his race.
More quotes from Romero about Duane Jones. From “Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever” (Citadel Press/Kensington, 2010).
But the movie's ending also can't help but serve as a biting social commentary as well.