Black stories. Black talent. Black creators. Black History.
I am going to go out on a limb here and say this year’s month-long celebration of Black History, is worthy of next-level turn up. Why go above and beyond more than any year prior? Because the last 12 months have shown that life for the descendants of chattel slaves hasn’t changed nearly as much as we would like and/or want to believe. We are in the fight of our lives while living in a Nation in crisis (e.g. suspect vaccines too reminiscent of The Tuskegee Experiment, voter suppression, a failed coup attempt). With the number of strides we have made, we still have so far to go.
Most of us are still stuck indoors and aren’t able to attend the Black History Month galas, festivals, or expos. Quarantining and social distancing won’t stop the turn up! Streaming historical fiction, biopics, and documentaries are a great way to honor Black figures and historical events that paved the way to where we are today. Host watch parties, share on social media and spark dialog about these films and TV series all of which you can stream during this poignant Black History Month. They serve as recorded testimonies of the struggles and sacrifices of so many worthy of celebration this month and beyond.
1. 13th, Available on Netflix
This feature documentary directed by Ava DuVernay examines the history of the 13th Amendment, which abolished American slavery, and the loophole in the legislation being exploited by the prison-industrial complex that led to the disproportionate mass incarceration of Black men who are performing forced labor.
2. The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, Available on PBS
In 2013, PBS premiered this series examining what it means to be Black in America. Spanning five hundred years and two continents, Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. takes viewers on a journey of the Black experience through various cultural, religious, and social perspectives.
3. All In: The Fight for Democracy, Available on Amazon Prime
This is the heroic story of Stacey Abrams and her hard-fought fight against voter suppression that resulted in the state of Georgia turning blue in the 2020 election.
4. Barry, Available on Netflix
A film about the President Barack Obama’s college years beginning in 1981 for his junior year at Columbia University.
5. Black Boy Joy Available on HBO Max airing February 2
Otis, Miles, and Selim are adapting to their new normal after the death of a loved one. The film aims to show a nuanced and realistic perspective of the love and vulnerability Black men feel and express while navigating the complexities of relationship building, effective communication, and support amongst Black fathers and sons.
6. The Black Church Available on PBS airing February 16
Executive producer, host, and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr. returns to PBS to present this intimate four-hour series telling the 400 year-old story of the Black church in America and its role as the site of African American survival and endurance, grace and resilience, thriving and testifying, freedom and independence, solidarity and speaking truth to power.
7. Black Panther Available on Disney+
Faced with treachery and danger, T'Challa must release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.
8. Becoming Available on Netflix
Watch as Forever First Lady Michelle Obama during her book tour of the same name.
9. Between the World and Me Available on HBO
This adaptation of author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2015 New York Times bestselling book and the 2018 Apollo stage performance of the same name serves as a love letter to Coates’ son, sharing a father’s past experiences and detailing the heartbreaking yet joyous road that lies ahead for a young man.
10. Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices Available on Netflix
Listen as Celebrity readers share children's books by Black authors sparking kid-friendly conversations about empathy, equality, self-love, and antiracism.
11. Da 5 Bloods Available on Netflix
Black veterans reunite to return to Vietnam on a mission to collect the remains of their fallen leader played by Chadwick Boseman and uncover a buried treasure trove of gold. Spike Lee’s latest film shines a light on the undersung role of Black soldiers in the conflict.
12. Freedom Riders Available on PBS
Based on Raymond Arsenault's book Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice, this two-hour documentary tells the story of the summer of 1961 when more than 400 Black and white Americans who risked their lives going into segregated South to protest segregation violating Jim Crow laws calling themselves “Freedom Riders.”
13. Hidden Figures Available on Disney+
Black Girl magic made history when mathematicians Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) met the challenges of rocket science and racism at the same time during the 1960’s.
14. I Am Not Your Negro Available on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime
Filmmaker Raoul Peck adapts James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript into a documentary film detailing the history of racism and the Civil Rights movement in America, and his experiences with leaders Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.
15. Judas and the Black Messiah Available on HBO Max airing February 12
Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya plays Fred Hampton, a Black Panther leader murdered by police, and the informant played by Lakeith Stanfield who betrayed the movement helped them do it.
16. Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History Available on Netflix
Kevin Hart's comedy special highlights the contributions of Black history’s unsung heroes.
17. More than a Month Available on iTunes
Annoyed that the significance of Black History Month being relegated to the coldest, shortest month of the year and believing Black History should not be separate from American history, Shukree Hassan Tilghman ventures off on a quest asking passers-by “Should Black History Month be ended?”
18. Mudbound on Netflix
Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after the war.
19. Roots on HBO Max
Alex Haley's Pulitzer Prize-winning book turned mini-series chronicles Haley’s lineage beginning with Kunta Kinte and his subsequent 1767 capture, stolen away to America. This was the first time American television addressed the institution of slavery, becoming a must-see for African-American families for generations to come sparking mass interest in genealogy.
20. Selma Available on Hulu
David Oyelowo puts in an astonishing performance as Martin Luther King in Ava DuVernay’s biopic, which zones in on a very specific point in MLK’s life: the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights march in 1965.
21. Soundtrack for a Revolution Available on Amazon Prime
Soundtrack for a Revolution features the powerful music from the movement. Focusing on the freedom songs, songs that evolved from slave chants, the labor movement, and from the Black church, vital tools as protestors stood up against adversity. They energized and empowered them, enabled them to sing the things they couldn’t say, and allowed them to meet aggression with dignity and non-violence. Performances by top artists, including John Legend, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean, and The Roots.
22. Time: The Kalief Browder Story Available on Netflix
This series traces the tragic case of Kalief Browder, a Bronx teen who spent three horrific years in jail, despite never being convicted of a crime.
23. The Trials of Muhammad Ali Available on Amazon Prime
The Trials Of Muhammad Ali examines how one of the most celebrated sports champions of the 20th century risked his fame and fortune to follow his faith and conscience. Outspoken and passionate in his beliefs, Ali found himself in the center of America's controversies over race, religion, and war.
24. Underground Available on Hulu
It tells the story of the Underground Railroad through the eyes of the slaves who traveled it, the abolitionists who organize it, and the bounty hunters who relentlessly stalked it.
25. The United States vs. Billie Holiday Available on Hulu airing February 26
Led by Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels and introducing Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday unapologetically presents the icon’s complicated, irrepressible life.
There were so many other movies I wanted to add to the list that I have enjoyed over the years. Lady Sings the Blues... The Color Purple... The Wiz... Red Tails... The Hurricane... Just Mercy... The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks... Birth of a Nation... I have watched so many m0vies over the years, I couldn't put them into one list, but I tried. What are a few of your favorite movies to watch during Black History Month? Leave me a comment below.
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