I am a very visual person. While I can take in and comprehend information well when I read it or hear about it, I understand it so much more when I am able to see it. I prioritized watching documentaries, mini-series and movies over the past couple of weeks because I knew it would help give me a base of knowledge that would make reading books or listening to podcasts that much more meaningful. I have taken in a lot of content, but have admittedly not seen everything on this list. If it is something I haven’t watched, it is something I have read was a good option and intend to watch at some point.
Brief descriptions of all suggestions are provided and are listed in no particular order. This is by no means an exhaustive list. If there is a movie/documentary/mini-series/video you would recommend, leave it in the comments!
13th. A documentary that explores the systems put into place immediately after the passing of the 13th amendment that have caused systemic racism to be weaved into every part of life in the United States. Available on Netflix.
Birth of a Movement. A documentary that delves into the life of civil rights activist and newspaperman, William Monroe Trotter, while simultaneously exploring the time leading up to the release of the controversial film The Birth of a Nation and the subsequent controversy. Available on Amazon Prime.
The Central Park Five. A documentary that examines the Central Park jogger case and the five wrongfully accused teens that were convicted for the crime. The film includes interviews with the five men that were wrongfully convicted. Available on Amazon Prime.
The Untold Story of Emmet Louis Till. A documentary that tells the real life story of the consequences of extreme racial tension and hate that gripped the United States in the 1950s/60s (and still does in many ways). Family members and friends of Emmet Till are interviewed for this documentary. Available on Amazon Prime.
The Black Panthers: The Vanguard of the Revolution. A documentary that explores the rise of the Black Panther Party and the effects the organization had on the civil rights movement. Available on Amazon Prime.
King in the Wilderness. A documentary focused on the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, specifically the last year and half before his death. Available on Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO Max.
I Am Not Your Negro. This documentary is the re-imagination of the unfinished book by James Baldwin. His book was to examine the lives and assassinations of three of his close friend, Medgar Evers, Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. Available on Amazon Prime.
The Uncomfortable Truth. Loki Mulholland, son of civil rights activist Joan Mulholland, researches the 400+ year history of institutional racism in the United States. Throughout his research, he discovers his family not only fought institutional racism, but was also a part of instituting it. Available on Amazon Prime.
LA 92. A documentary that follows the events leading up to the 1992 LA Riots as well as the riots itself. It dives into what led a city and country to a breaking point and the long term effects. Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992. This documentary examines the decade leading up to the 1992 acquittal of the officers that beat Rodney King and the riots that ensued following this acquittal. Available on Netflix.
Selma. A film which follows the immediate events leading up to the Selma to Montgomery voting rights march, as well as the march itself. Available on Amazon Prime.
Just Mercy. Tells the real life stories of Bryan Stevenson and Walter McMillian. Stevenson is a Harvard educated lawyer who chooses to practice in Alabama to exonerate the wrongly convicted. McMillian is a husband and father that was wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Available on Amazon Prime and the film’s website.
American Son. A movie that follows an estranged, biracial couple that is searching for their missing, teenage son. Available on Netflix.
If Beale Street Could Talk. A film that tells the tale of racial profiling through the lense of a love story. Set in 1970s New York, a young black man is wrongfully convicted of the rape of a woman. The story follows this man’s girlfriend and realities of living through this unjust experience. Available on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
The Hate U Give. Based on the novel by Angie Thomas, this film follows a teenager stuck between two worlds; her poorer, mostly Black neighborhood and her wealthy, mostly white prep school. Her world is rocked when her childhood best friend is shot and killed by a police officer. Available on Hulu and HBO Max.
Do the Right Thing. Set in 1980s Brooklyn, this movie follows the tensions between an Italian pizzeria owner and a young, Black neighborhood man after the pizzeria owner refuses to put anyone but famous Italian actors on his wall of fame. Available on Amazon Prime.
The Color Purple. This film follows the life of Celie for over forty years. It tells the story of abuse, discrimination and bigotry, as Celie attempts to live a free and happy life. Available on Amazon Prime.
Fruitvale Station. Based on the real story of Oscar Grant, this film explored the final day of Grant’s life. Grant is a young Black man living in Oakland, CA who met a tragic fate when returning home on a BART train on New Year’s Eve. Available on Amazon Prime.
Intruder in the Dust. Based in 1940s, small town Mississippi, this film follows a Black man wrongfully convicted of murder. Despite the heavy racial biases of the town, a local boy believes his innocences and attempts to help right this huge wrong. Available on Amazon Prime.
Marshall. Based on a true story, this film follows Thurgood Marshall through one of his early criminal cases as a defense attorney. With the case based in Connecticut, he teams up with a local Jewish attorney to build a defense for a local Black man that is accused of attempted murder and rape, while battling anti-semitism and racism. Available on Amazon Prime.
When They See Us. This mini-series explores the lives of the five falsely accused teens involved in the 1989 Central Park jogger case. It follows each of their times in prison and hardships after their release. Available on Netflix.
The Kalief Browder Story. A mini-series that examines the story of a 16 year-old boy that is arrested for a crime he did not commit. He is then is held at Riker’s Island for three years (and in solitary confinement for two years) before having all charges dropped and being released. Available on Netflix.
Killer Mike Press Conference. This was one of the first videos I watched after first hearing about George Floyd’s murder. It was powerful and inspired me to keep looking for more educational materials.
Trevor Noah Video. This was another early video that I watched. Trevor was able to so clearly lay out what was happening and why reactions have been what they are.
If someone doesn’t understand privilege, show them this video. I had actually seen this video and done this activity in the past. It absolutely puts things in perspective and can be a powerful video to recommend to someone if they are ever confused.
Jane Elliot. I am embarrassed to say that I did not know who Jane Elliot was until a couple of weeks ago. Killer Mike went on the Late Show and recommended that people search her on YouTube and watch her videos. So I did. They are powerful and put racism into perspective for people that have never experienced racism.
Again, this is by no means a comprehensive list. This is just the list I have come up with through my own research. If there is a movie/documentary/mini-series/video you would recommend, leave it in the comments and I will add it to the list! Until next time, friends… CML