7 Documentaries to Watch For Black History Month

7 Documentaries to Watch For Black History Month

There are many great ways to celebrate black history month. If you’re up for a good educational programme you can enjoy from the comfort of home, today’s list is for you. The films listed below are not ranked, but all are either related to African-American history or are produced by teams of African-American creatives.

The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

This 2013 PBS programme was quite ambitious in terms of scope and goals. On the surface, it is a film about African-American history in the broadest sense, but it goes far deeper than that. The film explores what it truly means to be an African-American, and how black identity is defined in modern America. Many Rivers to Cross covers a variety of cultural and religious perspectives, taking viewers on a journey across the African-American experience.

Freedom Riders

Freedom Riders takes a different approach, focusing on one particular event as opposed to a broader snapshot of history. The film is based on Raymond Arsenault’s book entitled Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. It explores the work and lives of the brave activists who fought against American policies of segregation. The documentary is fueled by the stories and testimonies of those who took part in the protests. 

Slavery By Another Name

The simplest account of history states that lawful slavery ended in the US with the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. However, there are additional nuances to consider. The southern society continued to find ways to subjugate African-Americans, long after the end of the war. Slavery By Another Name explores that period in American history and how it shaped African-American culture. Creators interviewed experts such as Khalil Muhammad, Mary Ellen Curtin, Risa Goluboff and Adam Green, along with descendants of those who were affected by this period in US history.

Eyes on the Prize

If you’re looking for one comprehensive series on the Civil Rights movement, this could be the one. The series consists of 14 one-hour episodes, narrated by political and civil rights leader Julian Bond. Eyes on the Prize covers all major events of the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1985, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Voting Rights Act and the birth of the Black Power Movement. 

The Black Power Mixtape

This film takes a unique approach to its subject matter, following the rise of the Black Power Movement from the perspective of Swedish journalists. The journalists recorded interviews with black activists, and the film relies heavily on these tapes. The original footage and tapes are mixed with interviews from African-American artists, thought leaders and intellectuals. These include Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, Talib Kweli and Melvin Van Peebles. 

Soundtrack for a Revolution

This film explores the music from the civil rights era, and its effect on political events throughout the 1960s. Soundtrack For a Revolution delves into the history of popular culture and its connections to African-American culture in particular, such as how the Black Church played a key role in the formation of Southern music during the struggle to gain equal rights and protection under the law. 

The Black List

The Black List has a rather simple approach, but an effective one. The film interviews prominent African-American figures from the worlds of politics, art and culture–however, the interviewer is never seen nor heard during filming. It is those being interviewed who take centre stage, leaving audiences to feel as if the story is flowing naturally without guidance. The plan is for the film to spark an ongoing series, featuring additional interviews in future instalments.  


Which of these films you plan to see first, and why?