Black History Month Documentaries
The PBS Series: The African Americans Many Rivers to Cross
This series chronicles the full sweep of African American history, from the origins of slavery on the African continent right up to today when America has a black president, yet remains a nation deeply divided by race.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 For three decades, the film canisters sat undisturbed in a cellar beneath the Swedish National Broadcasting Company. Inside was roll after roll of startlingly fresh and candid 16mm footage shot in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States, all of it focused on the anti-war and Black Power movements. When filmmaker Goran Hugo Olsson discovered the footage, he decided he had a responsibility to shepherd this glimpse of history into the world. With contemporary audio interviews from leading African American artists, activists, musicians and scholars, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 looks at the people, society, culture, and style that fueled an era of convulsive change. Utilizing an innovative format that riffs on the popular 1970s mixtape format, Mixtape is a cinematic and musical journey into the black communities of America.
13TH: A Netflix Original In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom. Available on Netflix
Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965–1985
Season 2, Episode 1:The Time Has Come: 1964-1966 Episode focuses on black militancy and the roots of the black power movement. Also tracks the influence of ideas of black separatism and black nationalism on a new generation of blacks and analyzes the long-term impact they had on whites who supported the freedom movement.
Season 2, Episode 2: Two Societies: 1965-1968 Northern cities served as the backdrop for confrontations on a scale the civil rights movement had never seen before the mid-1960s. Scarred by widespread discrimination, black inner-city neighborhoods became sites of crumbling houses, poverty, and street violence. Although the black-led movement for social change and equality in the North had a long history, it had not received the same media attention the struggle in the South had.
Season 2, Episode 3: Power!: 1966-1968 Exploring the influence of the idea of black power on freedom movement. Follows leaders of three black communities in their efforts to gain political and economic power that would enable advancements in employment, housing and education.
Season 2, Episode 4: The Promised Land: 1967-1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. stakes out new ground for himself and the rapidly fragmenting civil rights movement. He is assassinated in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel.
Season 2, Episode 5: Ain't Gonna Shuffle No More: 1964-1972 Call to pride and push for unity galvanize blacks. Cassius Clay challenges America to accept him as Muhammad Ali, who refuses to fight in Vietnam. Students at Howard University fight to bring the growing black consciousness movement and their African heritage inside the walls of the institution.
Season 2, Episode 6: A Nation of Law?: 1968-1971 Black activism is increasingly met with violent and unethical response from local and federal law enforcement. A five-day inmate takeover at Attica Prison calls the public's attention to conditions there leaves 43 dead: 39 killed by police.
Season 2, Episode 7: The Keys to the Kingdom: 1974-1980 In the 1970s, anti-discrimination rights are put to the test. Boston whites violently resist federal school desegregation order. Atlanta's mayor Jackson proves affirmative action can work, but Bakke decision challenges that policy.
Season 2, Episode 8: Back to the Movement: 1979-Mid 1980s Episode explores new and old challenges that black communities faced 25 years after civil rights struggle began. It follows black communities in Miami and Chicago and chronicles their dramatically different responses to these challenges.
The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela This 2-hour PBS FRONTLINE documentary covers Nelson Mandela's amazing life story, from his radical political activism in Johannesburg as a youth to his over 20-year imprisonment, and then to his remarkable rise as the President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 in which he presided over the dismantling of apartheid. This documentary features excellent footage from all periods in Mandela's life along with interviews of the people closest to him. It's a story that must be heard to be believed.
For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots A two-part, four-hour documentary series honoring African-American servicemen and women.
The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013) investigates its extraordinary and often complex subject's life outside the boxing ring. From joining the controversial Nation of Islam and changing his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali, to his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War in the name of protesting racial inequality, to his global humanitarian work, Muhammad Ali remains an inspiring and controversial figure. Outspoken and passionate in his beliefs, Ali found himself in the center of America's controversies over race, religion, and war. Available on Amazon Video and iTunes.
Black America Since MLK:And Still I Rise parts 1-4 Henry Louis Gates, Jr. embarks on a deeply personal journey through the last fifty years of African American history. Joined by leading scholars, celebrities, and a dynamic cast of people who shaped these years, Gates travels from the victories of the civil rights movement up to today, asking profound questions about the state of black America—and our nation as a whole.