Introduce your children to family-friendly films about Black history and culture, sharing the rich heritage and historical significance with the next generation. These carefully selected movies offer insightful information while concentrating on varied representations, making them perfect for family viewing.
Educating children about Black history (and Black experiences) throughout the year, not just during Black History Month is crucial. One way to accomplish this is seeing films depicting various aspects of Black life. “Children may visualize historical personalities and events through the medium of film. When done effectively, films provide a wealth of context, providing children and their families with a multidimensional grasp of Black history, “Aramide Tinubu, a knowledgeable film critic and culture writer for Netflix Tuuum, adds.
Nonetheless, parents must recognize that Black experiences are not uniform. Movies that focus on slavery, the Civil Rights movement, and Black performers might leave a positive impression, but they should also depict different depictions of everyday Black life. This means that families should choose their entertainment with care.
Tinubu asserts that well-made films may provide children and their families with a multidimensional perspective of African-American history. “American history includes black history. It is vital that we recognize that slavery did not begin our history.” She asserts that narratives about enslaved people are an essential part of the Black history canon but that seeing films such as Hidden Figures and Black Panther may be as illuminating.
Here, we have compiled a list of 20 films that honor Black history and culture, with an emphasis on varied portrayals. Your family will be entertained while gaining useful knowledge and perspective.
BLACK HISTORY FILMS FOR CHILDREN (AGES 4-9)
Dancing in the Light: Janet Collins Story (2015)
Chris Rock narrates the story of ballerina Janet Collins, who became the first African woman to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. The uplifting animated short emphasizes her hard work, perseverance, and the bigotry she endured during her ballet career.
Jamie Foxx portrays Joe Gardner, a Black middle school band instructor who conducts music class by day and dreams of becoming a jazz musician by night, in the Disney and Pixar film Soul. When famed jazz and blues singer Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett) offers him a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he unwittingly embarks on a road that ultimately leads him to the “Great Before.” Spiritually and emotionally, this alters the course of his life. Soul focuses on universal principles of existence, purpose, mentorship, and humanity, which transcend race. Soul demonstrates the positive impact of arts education and encourages families to engage in heartfelt discussions about the human condition.
The Journey of Henry Box Brown (2008)
The Voyage of Henry Box Brown, narrated by seasoned actress Alfre Woodard, helps teach younger children about African history. The short animation is inspired by a real-life slave who “shipped” himself to freedom in a wooden crate. It describes the sufferings of slaves and their families and Henry Brown’s terrifying 27-hour trek.
Garrett’s Gift (2008)
Garrett’s Gift is a 20-minute short film on the legacy of Garrett Morgan, the creator of the traffic light. Queen Latifah narrates the film, which underlines the significance of discovering one’s “gifts” and demonstrates that great things may result from original ideas.
The Color of Friendship (2000)
The Color of Friendship takes place during the 1970s apartheid era. It follows the friendship between a Black American girl and a white South African girl. The film explores prejudices, racial misconceptions, activism, and the power of friendship with tact. It contains some racist slurs that depict the bigotry of the time, although some parents may believe that the message of compassion overcomes the language.
BLACK HISTORY FILMS FOR TEENAGERS (AGES 9-13)
Crooklyn, directed by Spike Lee, explores Black girlhood, the ordinary life of a Brooklyn-based Black family in the 1970s, and the events surrounding an overburdened Black matriarch. It provides an opportunity to address how family dynamics differ based on a person’s cultural or ethnic background and is pleasantly relevant. Crooklyn has some adult language, but the cultural subtlety makes it likely worthwhile for older adolescents.
Hidden Figures (2016)
Hidden Figures is based on the true story of three African-American female mathematicians: Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan. It focuses on the role played by these historical figures in America’s drive to beat Russia and send John Glenn to the moon. In addition to being an excellent, inspiring film for adolescent girls and boys (particularly those interested in STEM-based careers), Hidden Figures can also spark conversations on sexism, workplace discrimination, teamwork, and togetherness.
The Great Debaters (2007)
The Great Debaters, directed by Denzel Washington, chronicles the story of Professor Melvin B. Tolson, who pushed his pupils at Wiley College, a historically Black college in Texas, to organize a debate team. Based on actual events from the 1930s, the Great Debaters portrays some of the unjust treatment these college students encountered. Fans admire the well-written screenplay and the non-stereotypical characters with multiple dimensions.
Remember the Titans (2000)
Remember the Titans is inspired by the true story of an integrated high school football team in Virginia. This film starring Denzel Washington, addresses segregation, integration, racism, and unity. It can be utilized as a motivator to develop a sense of teamwork in athletics and the classroom.
Black Panther (2018)
Black Panther, one of the highest-grossing films in the United States, is the first Marvel picture with a Black filmmaker (Ryan Coogler). It contains a star-studded ensemble and numerous positive counter-stereotypes to the “victim” and “enslaved” cliches frequently featured in films about Black life. Here is a summary: In the technologically sophisticated African nation of Wakanda, T’Challa discovers that his crown is being challenged and that Wakanda’s future is in jeopardy. T’Challa (also known as Black Panther) and others battle to save Wakanda with the assistance of the Wakandan elite military. Black Panther represents Black monarchy, which is rarely portrayed in film and television, with stunning costume and set design and meticulous and perceptive creative direction.
Ruby Bridges (1998)
The film Ruby Bridges, directed by Euzhan Palcy, tells the true story of Bridges, at 6 years old, who integrated her New Orleans elementary school on behalf of black students. The film depicts the prejudice and racist epithets she faced and the grace and inner fortitude that carried her through the integration process. This film has the positive themes of heroism, bravery, the strength of family, and prayer.
King Richard (2021)
The Williams sisters have irrevocably altered the sport of tennis. Their beaded braids, elegant tennis attire, and fearsome court talents have left an indelible impact on the annals of sports history. Will Smith portrays their father, Richard Williams, in the film King Richard, which details how his steadfast faith, dedication, inner strength, and tenacity contributed to the development of two of the finest female athletes alive today. In addition to addressing race, this film emphasizes the universal qualities of diligence, mental fortitude, and persistence.
BLACK HISTORY FILMS FOR ADOLESCENTS (14+)
Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, is an excellent vehicle for discussing the struggle for voting equality during the Civil Rights era. This historical drama depicts the 1965 marches from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, with a focus on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Selma received Best Picture nominations at the 87th Academy Awards and four Golden Globes.
In the Nick Cannon film Drumline, a Harlem youngster is recruited by a strict band director. These include depictions of Black fraternities and sororities, the history of Black marching bands, and Southern college life. Drumline also features a range of college students from various socioeconomic backgrounds. Your children will learn about pride (and conquering it), teamwork, and excellence-driven unity-seeking.
Claudine, a 1970s romance drama, explores the love between two regular people, Claudine (Diahann Carroll) and Roop (Richard Jenkins) (James Earl Jones). Roop, a resident of Harlem, is instantly charmed with Claudine, a single black mom of six children; nevertheless, life, responsibilities, and financial strain quickly interfere. Claudine is effective because it depicts two Black characters who are broken and in need of love, just as they are. With Roop, the film contradicts the cliche of the furious Black guy, while Claudine’s portrayal as a hardworking single mother contradicts the racist myth of the “lazy single Black mom” stereotype. Claudine is relatable to many people and sheds light on the flaws of the U.S. poverty system.
The Women of Brewster Place (1989)
Based on the novel by Gloria Naylor, The Ladies of Brewster Place is a television miniseries set in an inner-city housing complex and its surrounding neighborhood. Created by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, it is a realistic picture of the lives of a number of African-American women in different time periods. Overall, it illuminates the condition of numerous underprivileged groups who are subject to the recurrent legacy of systematic oppression.
The Banker (2020)
The Banker recounts the lives of two wealthy African-American businessmen, Bernard Garrett, and Joe Morris. In the 1960s, they employed a white guy to represent their expanding real estate company. Teens who are interested in investing, banking, and entrepreneurship will enjoy studying about the history of prejudice in these areas in the United States. In addition, viewers will learn about the life of upper-middle-class Blacks and the sacrifices they had to make in order to have equal access to the “American dream.” This film addresses racism, classism, housing discrimination, self-control, and tenacity.
Belle, directed by Amma Asante, depicts the late 18th-century life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race daughter of Royal Navy Captain Sir John Lindsay. The historical drama delves deeply into social standards, social status, racial prejudice, and so much more. Belle is an absolute must-watch for everyone who appreciates stunning costume and set design, as well as a well-written script.
The film Rosewood, starring Don Cheadle, Ving Rhames, and Jon Voight, is based on the 1923 Rosewood Massacre, in which a racist white mob terrorized and burned down a Black village in Rosewood, Florida. Although it depicts lynchings, gun violence, sex scenes, mobs, and racial violence, this film is only suitable for mature and older teenagers. Rosewood also contains themes of white allyship, and it could spark conversations regarding the role of white allies, such as the character of Jon Voight, in the fight for social justice.
When a Spanish-owned ship carrying enslaved Mende captives is taken off the coast of Long Island, New York, the decision by U.S. courts as to whether the captives are slaves or free causes a big commotion. Amistad, directed by Steven Spielberg, depicts the arduous trip endured by many enslaved people during the transatlantic slave trade of the 19th century.
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