Black History Month is a celebration but also a reminder that our history is more than just what is written in the textbooks. In the spirit of celebrating diversity and recognizing tragedy, I have compiled a short list of documentaries that honor the importance of political and social history of African-Americans in the United States.
The Loving Story
This touching documentary delves into the Supreme Court ruling in Loving v. Virginia, the landmark case involving Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple who went on a legal crusade to fight for the right to marry in 1958.
Their moving story and hard fought battle resulted in the legalization of interracial marriage across America. The Loving Story is a must-watch documentary for people of all ages.
Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football
A fan of football? Learn about the impact four African-American athletes who broke through the color barrier in 1946. Follow the story of of Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley and Bill Willis as this documentary explores civil rights through the lens of pro-football.
College football fans can also enjoy the HBO documentary Breaking The Huddle: The Integration of College Football, which looks at the impact of football programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross
This Emmy Award-winning documentary series takes you from colonial America to present day, exploring a range of cultural, religious and social perspectives of African-American history. Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. narrates the Black identity through tragedies, triumphs and contradictions in the United States.
Throughout the documentary Gates visits historic sites, engages in passionate debates, and interviews eyewitnesses. A truly engaging film.
In an effort to learn more about the concept of Black beauty, Dark Girls interviews people both in and outside the Black community to discover the deep-rooted biases about race and historical/psychological ideologies of beauty in mass media.
This documentary is a must-watch for fashion and beauty lovers. Dark Girls explores the topic of colorism and examines the prejudices that dark-skinned women face throughout the world.
This two-hour film documents the summer of 1961 when more than 400 Black and white Americans risked their lives to walk together in protest in the segregated South. Calling themselves “Freedom Riders,” these protestors deliberately violated Jim Crow laws pursuit of civil rights.
Freedom Riders recounts bitter racism and mob violence they faced along the way through interviews with the protestors, government officials, and journalists who witnessed the Rides firsthand.
20 Feet from Stardom
Delve into the lives of background singers in this compelling film about Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and Judith Hill. Learn about the uncredited talent behind the music legends you love like David Bowie, Micheal Jackson and Elton John.
This documentary earned the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. 20 Feet from Stardom also won 13 of 23 awards it was nominated for in 2013/2014.
This mesmerizing documentary follows two African-American boys over the course of 13 years as they navigated two very different school systems. From kindergarten through high school graduation, American Promise tackles the complex truths about race, class and opportunity in America.
This is the perfect documentary for people looking to take a closer look at the U.S. school system.
Hate Crimes in the Heartland
This documentary highlights the similarities between two Tulsa, Oklahoma hate crimes that happened 90 years apart: The 1921 Tulsa race riot, and the 2012 “Good Friday Murders.”
Through interviews with a variety of scholars and public figures, Hate Crimes in the Heartland explores the roots of American racism, presenting Tulsa as the epitome of the American social, cultural, and racial prejudice. The film also criticizes the role of the media in controlling information and influencing public response and the justice system.
Slavery by Another Name
This 90-minute documentary follows the years following the Emancipation Proclamation as systematic approaches were taken to re-enslave newly freed Blacks. Watch moving interviews with key Black history scholars and the descendants of both victims and perpetrators of the forced labor system.
Slavery by Another Name will challenge assumptions that slavery ended after the Civil War.
[images courtesy of IMBD]