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Movies for Black History Month
Movies for Black History Month
While I recognize that this is a website focused on books, I want to make sure we included some movies for those readers who are more visual learners. If you prefer watching a movie to reading a book, keep reading for the best movies for Black History Month.
Note: These movies have heavy themes, and all are rated PG-13 or above. These are not for younger children. As I find age-appropriate movies for younger children, I will update this post.
Loving is the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple whose name became famous when they sued the state of Virginia to have their interracial marriage recognized. They had met and fell in love while living in Virginia, but interracial marriage was still illegal in Virginia in 1958, so they traveled to Washington D.C. to get married.
When they returned, they had to live in secret to avoid being arrested and sent to jail. They fought for their rights to live in their home state and on June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court declared that their marriage (and all other interracial marriages) were protected by the 14th amendment of the Constitution.
You can find Loving on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Rustin is a newer movie, telling the incredible story of Bayard Rustin, the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. The more I learn about this man, the more I want to learn. Bayard Rustin was a gay Black man during Jim Crow times. He was distrusted by many in the Black community because his sexuality made others uncomfortable.
However, when it came time for the March on Washington, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. trusted him to organize what became an iconic moment in history for the Civil Rights Movement.
This movie made it on former President Barack Obama’s 2023 favorite movie list. For the younger kids, make sure to check out the children’s book about Bayard Rustin.
You can watch Rustin on Netflix.
Just Mercy is one of the first resources that introduced me to the world of social advocacy and racial inequality. Originally, I picked up the movie knowing zero about the plot. I chose the movie entirely because Michael B. Jordan is my favorite actor and I will watch absolutely anything that man puts his face on.
In the movie, Michael B. Jordan plays real-life hero Bryan Stevenson, founder of Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). As a brand new lawyer, Stevenson moved down to Alabama to pursue his values of defending forgotten members of society – people awaiting the death penalty on Death Row.
The story highlights how his pursuit of truth uncovered systemic racism and grossly incorrect judgements, resulting in innocent people being convicted for murder. Stevenson fights all the odds and wins freedom for his primary client in the movie, while building EJI to be able to defend more prisoners.
EJI continues to be a resource focused on Black History education, and was one of the first organizations supported by The Radical Agenda planner sales.
You can watch Just Mercy on Peacock, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV.
13th is the first of the documentary recommendations for this post. This documentary takes a hard look at Black history in the United States, and demonstrating how inequality and racism did not magically end after the Civil War and the freedom of all enslaved people.
In fact, the 13th Amendment created a way to protect and continue racism in a false “socially acceptable” way. Using inferred guilt, society has been able to incarcerate and murder Black lives and avoid accountability.
It is a comprehensive look at American history, all the way up through to its debut in 2016.
You can watch 13th on Netflix.
The Central Park Five
In 1989, a group of five young Black boys (all minors) were accused, arrested, tried, and convicted of the assault and rape of a woman named Tricia Meili in Central Park in New York City.
Every one of them maintained their innocence. Nevertheless, they were imprisoned. Donald Trump put out a full-page ad in the New York Times calling to reinstate the death penalty following their conviction. They remained in prison until 2002, when the actual perpetrator (just one person) finally admitted to the crime, which was confirmed by DNA evidence. In 2019, Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to apologize for calling for the death penalty of the wrongfully-convicted men, and continued instead to accuse them of vague wrongdoing.
Now known as the Exonerated Five, the men were released from prison and sued New York City. It took the city until 2014 to settle, awarding the men a total of $41 million dollars for emotional distress and racial discrimination.
Note: Yusef Salaam, one of the Exonerated Five, ran and won a seat on New York City Council in November 2023.
The documentary is produced by the king of documentaries, Ken Burns, and can be seen on PBS for a small donation.
While I recommend places to stream all of these movies, don’t forget to also check out your local library to stream or borrow them through! The library is how I discovered both Just Mercy and 13th. If your library doesn’t offer these movies, send them a message and request that they add the movie to their collection.