The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974) The story of a black woman in the South who was born into slavery in the 1850s and lives to become a part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
42 (2013) The story of Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Available on Amazon Video, iTunes.
Remember the Titans (2000) Based on a true story, in 1971, a court order forces three high schools in Alexandria, Virginia (two white, one African-American), to integrate their student bodies and faculties for the first time. Denzel Washington stars as the coach of a newly integrated football team in Virginia. A high school football coach finds himself fighting for stakes much higher than the State Championship in this drama based on actual events. Available on iTunes.
Glory (1989) The film is about one of the first military units of the Union Army, during the American Civil War, to consist entirely of African-American men (except for its officers), as told from the point of view of Colonel Shaw, its white commanding officer. The regiment is known especially for its heroic actions at Fort Wagner. Available on Amazon Video and iTunes.
Adam Clayton Powell (1989) The film delves into the gripping life and career of the most influential and flamboyant civil rights leader in America in the '30s, '40s and '50s. Narrated by civil rights activist Julian Bond and resplendent with rich archival footage and candid interviews with those who knew him best, this tell-all documentary mines the good, bad, and ugly acts of Powell's illustrious but controversial career - the multiple marriages, the uproarious taunting of the white establishment, his desegregation of Congress, and his shameful smearing of Martin Luther King, Jr. from self-imposed exile on the island of Bimini.Available on Amazon Video and iTunes.
Malcolm X (1992) Spike Lee’s Malcolm X stars Denzel Washington as one of black history’s most revolutionary leaders. This famous biopic chronicles the activist’s life up until his assassination in 1965.
Race (2016) Race is a biopic film about Jesse Owens, the famed track and field athlete who endured racial discrimination and adversity on his way to winning 4 gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, a record that remained unbroken for 48 years. Despite his victory, Owens couldn’t even sit in the front of a bus when he returned home to the US.
Girlhood (2014) Selected to open the 2014 Cannes Film Festival Directors’ Fortnight, this French film depicts a young girl’s coming of age and provides a fresh look into growing up black and poor in a Paris housing project. Girlhood reminds viewers that girls’ and women’s empowerment is a universal issue.
Dear White People (2014) Dear White People tells the story of a group of black college students who grapple with issues of race, sexual orientation, and what it’s like to not fit in at a predominantly white university. The film, which won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, brings much needed attention to racial tension that exist on college campuses in the 21st century.
The Secret Life of Bees (2008) Based on the best-selling novel by Sue Monk Kidd, the film follows 14-year-old Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) as she runs away from her abusive father with her caregiver (Jennifer Hudson). The pair is taken in by the Boatwright sisters (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, and Sophie Okonedo), who are more connected to Lily’s past than it might appear.
The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) Also based on a true story, The Pursuit of Happyness follows single father Chris Gardner as he fights to survive after he and his son are evicted from their home right when he is set to begin an internship that has the potential to change both of their lives for the better.
Fruitvale Station (2013) The film follows the last day in the life of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who was murdered by police on New Year’s Day 2009. By giving such a tight 24-hour look at Grant’s life, Fruitvale Station really forces audiences to see him as a whole person and not just another headline — an important message in a world where black men are murdered so often that people seem to become numb to the fact that they are human beings who have families, dreams, and fears just like everyone else.
12 Years A Slave (2013) This film, directed by Steve McQueen, won three Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. It is based on the memoir of Solomon Northup, a free man who, due to a tragic betrayal, was sold illegally into slavery in 1841. He lived out the next 12 years of his life on a plantation in Louisiana. This film chronicles his story.
Moonlight (2016) Chiron, the protagonist, is played by three different actors throughout the film. His mother is an addict, he gets mercilessly bullied at school and his father is absent. This is not the recipe for a successful life. To add to that, the only role model he has is a drug dealer called Juan. With such an upbringing, Chiron inevitably ends up in a life of crime, but he has a secret that is ashamedly still taboo in the black community. Moonlight offers the other end of the spectrum so rarely captured in film of what goes on behind the tough exterior that comes with blackness and how vulnerability in a world that sees your race as subordinate is a dangerous thing.
The Color Purple (1985) What can we say about this 1980s classic that gave Oprah her Oscar and gave us one of Whoopie Goldberg’s most iconic roles. Based on a novel by Alice Walker, this is a must-watch whether you’ve seen it before or not. A black Southern woman struggles to find her identity after suffering abuse from her father and others over four decades.
What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015) Nina Simone is one of the most famous voices of a generation, but many today don’t know that she was also a vocal black rights and women’s rights activist. Living life out loud, Simone was incredible, and her life was fascinating.
Hidden Figures (2016) The true story of the black women who helped propel America into the space race.
Marshall (2017) Based on a true story, MARSHALL follows future Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, as he defends a black man from sexual assault charges against his white employer.
Selma (2014) A chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.
4 Little Girls (1997) A documentary of the notorious racial terrorist bombing of an African American church during the Civil Rights Movement.
Amistad (1997) In 1839, the revolt of Mende captives aboard a Spanish owned ship causes a major controversy in the United States when the ship is captured off the coast of Long Island. The courts must decide whether the Mende are slaves or legally free.