13 Movies and Documentaries About Racism in the US You Can Stream Right Now
As protests continue to rage throughout the nation and the world in the wake of the brutal police murder of George Floyd and in the final days of Trump's administration, more and more individuals are seeking out material to help them unlearn centuries of inherited racism.
If you're a white person, you're racist, whether you know it or not. As America finally begins to wake up to the reality of the plight of Black people, it's your job to educate yourself. While there are plenty of resources available to help you in your journey to becoming consistently anti-racist, one of the most powerful ways to learn is by taking in Black stories on film.
Below, we've compiled a list of 13 powerful films about the history of the Civil Rights Movement, the history of racial oppression in America, and powerful stories about what it's like to be Black in the USA.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, this stirring drama tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s struggle to secure voting rights for Black people in the three-month period leading up to the historic march from Selma to Montgomery. Dr. King is powerfully portrayed by David Oyelowo.
This Emmy Award-winning documentary by Ava DuVernay reveals that slavery was never really abolished in the United States; it was just transformed. Mass incarceration, which disproportionately affects Black people, is little more than modern day slavery. If you didn't realize that before, this documentary will make sure you're up to speed.
A Raisin In the Sun (1961)
Adapted from Lorraine Hansberry's revolutionary play of the same name, Raisin in the Sun was one of the first movies to confront systemic racism head on.
You know his name, but after watching this stirring one-man show, you'll know his story too. Directed by Spike Lee, Roger Guenveur Smith performs as Rodney King, the man whose brutal beating at the hands of the police incited the LA Riots in 1992.
All the Way (2016)
This 2016 TV movie follows the true events of Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency as the Civil Rights Movement unfolds. LBJ is played by Bryan Cranston, and Anthony Mackie gives a stunning performance as MLK.
Directed by Spike Lee, this movie about the infamous Black Nationalist leader, Malcolm X, stars Denzel Washington. Malcolm X has long been vilified and misunderstood in the eyes of history, but this stirring documentary sets the record straight.
Brilliantly acted and directed, this stirring film tells the true story of Bryan Stevenson, a Harvard-educated lawyer who moves to Alabama to combat systemic inequality. The film follows Stevenson's defense of Walter McMillian, a Black man accused of murdering a young white girl, despite obvious evidence to the contrary.
King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis (1970)
This documentary is one of the purest, unrevised windows into the reality of MLK as a person available. It uses only original newsreel and other footage, features no voiceover, and covers the period from the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 and 1956 through MLK's assassination in 1968.
4 Little Girls (1997)
This harrowing film was directed by Spike Lee and nominated for best documentary film at the Academy Awards in 1997. It tells the story of the 15 September 1963 case of four black girls (Addie May Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Rosamond Robertson) in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Rosa Parks Story (2002)
The Rosa Parks Story is a stirring biopic about the accidental civil rights leader's life leading up to the moment in which she refused to give up her seat on the bus. Angela Bassett portrays Rosa Parks, and Cicely Tyson plays her mother.
The Butler (2013)
This movie is inspired by Wil Haygood's Washington Post article "A Butler Well Served by This Election," which tells the story of the real life of Eugene Allen, who worked in the White House as a butler through many presidential administrations. The film stars Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Alex Pettyfer, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber, Robin Williams, Minka Kelly, Mariah Carey, and Clarence Williams III.
Loving tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the plaintiffs in the 1967 U.S. Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which repealed state laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton co-star as the famous couple.
Dear White People
It's impossible not to understand how deeply pervasive racism really is after watching this satirical film.
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