Important Films That Carefully Examine Racism, Discrimination and the Struggles of Being Black in America
Ignited by the horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, calls for an end to the systemic oppression of Black Americans are spreading across the United States. Supporters of the movement are mobilizing, donating to charitable efforts and sharing messages on social media, but it’s also important to educate ourselves (and each other) on the centuries-old injustices towards an entire population.
In an effort to encourage empathy and honesty while sparking difficult yet necessary conversations between family and friends, we’ve collected a list of films that can teach us how to channel our energy to help dismantle the racist structures that exist in our communities and align ourselves with movements leading the fight towards equality.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 (2011)
If you’re concerned about politicians and the media misrepresenting the current social movement, you should check out The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975. In 2011, 30 years after nine years’ worth of footage was filmed, journalists from Sweden’s public broadcasting network discovered a series of interviews with some of the leading Black scholars, musicians and activists from the Black Power Movement. The footage turned into a nine-part documentary offering a unique perspective into one of the most important eras of Black liberation in American history.
According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites, and the imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women. The criminal justice system in America is undoubtedly racially biased, and filmmaker and director Ava DuVernay’s 13th offers an in-depth look at our prison system and the nation's history of racial inequality.
Hoop Dreams (1994)
On February 14, 2020, Democratic Congressman and Vice-Chair of the Joint Economic Committee Don Beyer released a report laying out the current economic challenges Black families in America face. For starters, the median net worth for white families is nearly 10 times greater than for Black families, and Black households earned just 59 cents for every dollar white households earned in 2018. If parents are looking for a way to talk to their children about the persistent link between race, education and class in America, look no further than the gripping documentary Hoop Dreams.
The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (2013)
Five hundred years of the history of the African American experience are broken down into six episodes packed with stories of the people, places and events that made Black history. Harvard professor, public intellectual and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates, Jr. expertly shares unique stories of courage, determination and the power of hope against political and social adversity.
Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement (2016)
After 28-year-old George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges after fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an emotional exchange of love and support on Facebook for the Black community between Alicia Garza and Patrisse Marie Cullors-Brignac started #BlackLivesMatter. The message quickly permeated social media with marching orders and demands that broadly addressed the many injustices in our society while keeping it concise enough for the hashtag generation to share their stories and experiences from around the world.