As we all know, February is Black History Month, so it’s a great time to brush up on Black history and educate yourself.
Luckily for us, streaming networks such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and all the rest of them have a lot of movies, TV series and documentaries that help illustrate the Black experience, whether it’s an adaptation of a book by an iconic Black author, or a documentary about riots that changed America forever.
While educating yourself about people who look different from you should be something we’re doing all year, Black History Month is a fantastic way to make sure that you’re putting in the work to be a better person.
Have you seen any of these movies or documentaries? Let us know in the comments below.
Directed by Ava DuVernay (she’ll come up again in this list), the documentary shows you how America changed after the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, but also kickstarted the prison boom in America.
‘The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson’
There wouldn’t be a Pride if it weren’t for Marsha P. Johnson. She is one of the most important activists from the LGBTQ community, and more people need to know about the incredible work she did.
Michelle Obama’s Netflix documentary is a look into the former first lady’s childhood, and how she defied the odds and became the woman she is today.
‘When They See Us’
This mini-series directed by DuVernay (told you she’d be back!) chronicles the Central Park Five, a group of Black teenagers who were wrongfully convicted of a crime they didn’t commit.
Did you know the first self-made female millionaire was a Black woman? Her name was Madam C.J. Walker, and Octavia Spencer plays her in this limited series on Netflix. You get to learn about the extraordinary life of a woman who doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.
‘If Beale Street Could Talk’
Regina King won an Oscar for her work in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” which is based off the novel by James Baldwin. The story follows a young couple trying to find their place in the world, only to be dumped down by racism.
This Oscar-winning picture tells the story of a young Black gay man living in Miami. It’s a coming-of-age story, and the injustices that he faces make the film even more compelling. Watch with the Showtime add-on.
The late and great Aretha Franklin released an album called “Amazing Grace,” and this documentary takes you behind the scenes of the legendary icon recording this master of an album. It’s obviously incredible to hear Franklin sing these songs, but it’s also so cool to see the work that went into producing this record.
‘Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am’
If you want to read more Black authors, then we highly suggest getting into the work of the late Toni Morrison. This documentary takes a look at the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, from her childhood to how she became the famed and celebrated author we remember her as.
You may know him as the hip-hop artist Childish Gambino, or as his real name, Donald Glover.
Glover created and stars in the FX series “Atlanta.” The show is about the Atlanta rap scene, and is critically acclaimed and has won many awards. It’s a must-watch series.
‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’
Andra Day won a Golden Globe in 2021 for her portrayal as the title character of this film. It follows Holiday as she was targeted by the government over the war on drugs. They wanted her to stop performing her song “Strange Fruit.”
‘One Night In Miami’
Directed by Regina King, “One Night In Miami” tells the story of the meeting of four incredible minds: Cassius Clay, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown. While it’s sort of based on a true story, the film takes some creative liberty on what the foursome chatted about the night.
‘I Am Not Your Negro’
This is another documentary that explores one of America’s most famous Black authors, James Baldwin. Samuel L. Jackson narrates the unfinished manuscript of Baldwin’s “Remember This House.” It explores Baldwin’s ideas about race in America.
If you pay attention to politics, then you certainly know who Anita Hill is. This documentary tells the story of Hill, who accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment when he was getting confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1991. Some senators who supported Hill thought she was making the story up, and it draws comparisons to what happened years later, when Brett Kavanaugh was vetted for a Supreme Court nomination.
This movie recently came out, and it’s a must-watch. It tells the story of how too many innocent Black men are on death row with very little evidence to support their sentencing. It’s based off a true story and stars Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan.
‘Judas and the Black Messiah’
Ever wanted to learn about the political party The Black Panthers? This movie, starring Daniel Kaluuya, will help you do just that. Kaluuya stars as Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers, and how he was betrayed by an FBI informant named William O’Neal.
‘12 Years A Slave’
When “12 Years A Slave” came out a few years ago, it won tons of Oscars, and deservingly so. Lupita Nyong’o won the Oscar for best supporting actress, and the film took home picture of the year. It’s based off the memoir of a free Black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south just before the Civil War. You will cry, think, and most importantly, leave the movie with more compassion.
The Broadway musical was turned into a movie-musical and launched the career of Jennifer Hudson, as well as showed that Beyoncé is a fantastic actress. The musical was loosely based off the story of The Supremes and their rise to fame back in the ‘60s. It’s great, and full of wonderful Broadway show tunes.