Intro: Documentaries about African American History
In this article, we explore the best documentaries about African-American history. There's a lot to learn from the past. We all know that there are many things in history that made America what it is today, and the contributions of African Americans have helped shaped our country for the better. However, they're often portrayed as a people who share a common story of slavery and poverty. What most people don't realize is that there's a lot more to their history than that.
The history of Africans in the United States is a long and complex one. In the modern era, this history has been shaped by the great American Civil Rights Movement.
The civil rights movement was successful because it had something that previous movements lacked: its roots were deeply embedded in African American communities that were flourishing all across the country. The collective actions of African Americans made it difficult for whites to ever really see them as inferior, no matter how hard they tried.
We owe so much of what we have today to those who had the courage to stand up for their rights and refuse to be silenced. Read on to learn more about this important history of African Americans in America.
This article will explore some documentaries about black history in America.
1. African American History Documentary
African-American history is a fragment of America’s history that talks about the African American traditional groups who have stayed in the United States. The majority of this population are original people from Africa, brought and kept confined in the United States from 1555 to 1865. Many blacks whose ancestors came from the Caribbean to America are also considered as African Americans because their roots go back to Central or West Africa.
2. The Black History Of The United States of America
Slavery has been an American institution since the very beginning. The country's history began with slaves; watch A Big History Of America to see how black people's rights have evolved through all of U.S. history!
3. The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (Episode 1)
The Emmy award-winning PBS series "The Black Atlantic" explores the global experiences that created African Americans. Beginning a century before the first documented 20-odd slaves who arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, The episode portrays the earliest Africans - slave and free - who arrived at these shores. The transatlantic slave trade soon became a vast empire connecting three continents through stories of individuals caught in its web, it traces the emergence of plantation slavery in the American South and examines what late 18th century era revolutions like America's independence from Britain or France's freedom from British rule would mean for African Americans and slavery here in America.
4. Amend: The Fight for America - Netflix
When the United States of America was founded, it did not apply to all people. Brave Americans fought for freedom and equality in order to right the nation's wrongs, so that values like liberty and justice could be enshrined into our constitution. These are their stories-with Will Smith as executive producer and host!
5. The Story of Marcus Garvey - Black History Documentaries
Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. (August 17, 1887 - June 10, 1940) was a Jamaican political leader and Black Star Line entrepreneur who believed in the return of blacks to their ancestral lands. He found himself speaking before audiences numbering in the thousands at various public meetings around Jamaica during his "Gospel Crusade." These speeches were often transcribed by hand onto paper or typed out for wide distribution via newspapers and magazines, including The Negro World founded by Garvey's UNIA-ACL on August 20th 1917.
6. The Story of American Slavery : Documentary on How Slavery Dominated America
This documentary examines the history of slavery in America, from its beginning to its end. It also provides insight into the effects of slavery on American society.
7. The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow - Black History Documentary
The show begins with the end of the Civil War and the Reconstruction periods, which held so much promise for black people. As we can see, as time passed by, the North gradually withdrew its support for these aspirations. The whites in the South succeeded in passing segregation and disenfranchising laws that were enforced through violence and terror tactics. By 1876, Reconstruction had come to an end: "Promises Betrayed" is a documentary of black response where some notable figures such as activist/separatist Benjamin Singleton or anti-lynching crusader Ida Wells are highlighted along with Booker T Washington's emergence as a national figure.
8. American Negro: Unreleased Documentary From 1960s - Black History Documentaries
The film is much like many of the USIA’s other films exploring racial issues in America at the time, and was meant to be shown to international audiences. It contains interviews with James Farmer, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and Ralph Metcalfe who were among "the Big Four" civil rights leaders along with Martin Luther King Jr. James Farmer initiated one of the 1961 Freedom Rides. Roy Wilkins was head of NAACP between 1955-1977. Whitney Young led the National Urban League from 1961-1971; which oversaw 13 million African Americans during his term as leader (he then went on to serve 4 terms as Congressman for Illinois). Ralph Metcalfe won Olympic silver medals in 1932 & 1936. The film also describes strides/challenges faced by black people across various areas such as voting, housing or education; interspersed voices discussing their experiences.
9. Malcolm X : Make It Plain - Documentaries about Black History
If any person or thing expressed the anger, struggle and insistence of black people for freedom in the 1960s, it was Malcolm X. In Omaha he was Malcolm Little; later on, he became "Detroit Red," a small-time street hustler. From prison emerged yet another Malcolm-the fiery, eloquent spokesman for the Nation of Islam. After a trip to Mecca, there came a last transformation-a new willingness to accept white allies. Who killed him and why has never been fully explained.
10. The History of Civil Rights In The USA - Documentaries on Black History
Jim Crow laws were state and local laws enacted in the Southern United States after Reconstruction. They mandated racial segregation in all public facilities, with a supposedly "separate but equal" status for African Americans. The name Jim Crow comes from an American minstrel performer of that same name who used racist stereotypes of Black people to entertain audiences during this period.
The term "Jim Crow law" can be applied more broadly to cover legal segregation, or de jure discrimination on the basis of race (or sometimes ethnicity), whether it was enforced by these specific statutes or not; especially as compared against those ethnicities which were legally segregated under other types of legislation such as anti-miscegenation law.
11. Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution - Black History Documentaries
This documentary explores the history and legacy of the Black Panther Party. The film presents a radical alternative to the dominant narrative of black struggle that permeates American media, showing how black revolutionaries led a national movement.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was a revolutionary socialist organization active in the United States from 1966 until 1982. The group believed that armed struggle would be necessary to fight racism and oppression, and they often clashed with police when carrying out their demonstrations or interventions against state violence. They were also known for their community social programs such as free breakfast programs, medical clinics, clothing distribution centers (known at "survival stores"), and schools; these served both members of the party's own communities in Oakland—where it had its largest following—and other parts of California where there wasn't much support for them.
12. King In The Wilderness HBO Documentary about African American History
King in the Wilderness is about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s final chapters, where he faced criticism from all angles of the spectrum. Black Power groups criticized his pacifism as being weak, while President Lyndon B. Johnson found him irresponsible for speaking against Vietnam War protests- but Dr. King's unyielding belief in peaceful protest became a testing point for a nation on the brink of chaos.
Dr. King's leadership during the bus boycotts, sit-ins and historic Selma to Montgomery marches is now legendary, but much of what happened afterward - three years before his assassination in 1968 - is rarely discussed. In these last few years of Dr. King's life, he said that "his dream turned into a nightmare." From the passage of 1965 Voting Rights Act till his death in 1968, he remained unshakably committed to nonviolence even when America became more and more unstable:.
The documentary, which is directed by Peter Kunhardt (whose HBO film "James Foley: A New American Hero" won an Emmy), unveils new perspectives on Dr. King's character and his struggles before he was assassinated in 1968. It also features archival footage, behind-the-scenes video of Dr. King's private moments as well as intimate photos taken during the time period along with phone conversations recorded by President Johnson who would be both ally or adversary to Dr. Kings fight for civil rights depending on the day.
13. February One: The Story of the Greensboro Four
The documentary is a history of the civil rights movement as it unfolded in North Carolina. It tells the story of four African Americans who were determined to make their voices heard and create change by sitting down at segregated lunch counters - despite threats, violence and intimidation. The film also includes interviews with other Greensboro students, white supporters from UNC-Greensboro (UNCG), and black residents reflecting on this pivotal moment in American history that would ultimately lead to sit-ins across the country for racial equality
You can find the full documentary here.
14. Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans
The Faubourg Treme neighborhood has been home to a long line of Creole and Black families, musicians, artists and entrepreneurs. The area is also the birthplace of jazz music in America--a tradition that continues today with venues like Preservation Hall. In this book-length photo essay about New Orleans's oldest African American community—one just outside the French Quarter—photographer Michael Piazza captures life on one block: from children playing hopscotch at their school; adults sipping coffee while reading newspapers; young men barbecuing ribs for dinner; neighbors chatting over backyard fences or hanging clothes out to dry; street vendors hawking goods such as roasted nuts and fruits.
15. I Am not your Negro
In his new film, director Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished- a radical narration about race in America. He draws upon James Baldwin's notes on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr to explore a fresh perspective on current American history as it relates to black people.
16. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 has been created by mobilizing a treasure trove of 16mm material shot by Swedish filmmakers, after languishing in a basement of a TV station for 30 years. It features candid interviews with the movement's most explosive revolutionary minds and tells us about community life, people at that time and radical ideas. Music composed/produced by Questlove and Om'Mas Keith brings to life what was once silent footage from three decades ago - it is an exhilarating account of the American revolution!
17. Freedom Riders - Documentaries about African American History
In 1961, segregation had a firm grasp on America - many states enforcing it with violence, while the government largely ignored it. That is until an unstoppable group of integrated college students took matters into their own hands and bought tickets to the Deep South under John F. Kennedy's administration as Freedom Riders, risking everything to put pressure on the president for civil rights reform across public laws & facilities, schools and beyond within our nation.
Veteran filmmaker Stanley Nelson's inspiring documentary chronicles the courageous band of civil-rights activists. Gaining impressive access to influential figures on both sides of the issue, Nelson tells a chapter in American history that stands as an astonishing testament to what youth can achieve when combined with personal conviction and courage.
18. Slavery by another name - Documentaries about African American History
Slavery by Another Name is a 90-minute documentary that challenges one of America's most cherished assumptions: the belief that slavery ended with Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The film reveals how from our nation’s founding, brutal racialized labor was essential to its economic prosperity and how convict leasing, debt peonage, Jim Crow laws and segregation were all part of a larger system designed to reinforce white supremacy—a system we still live with today.
19. Netflix '13th' - Documentaries about African American History
This Oscar-nominated documentary combines archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars to look at the high rate of incarceration in America. This film won the best documentary, among other awards, at the Emmys, BAFTA and NAACP Image Awards.
20. Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris, "Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People" is an insightful documentary that explores the role photography has had in shaping and redefining what it means to be African American. It also probes into America's history through images that have been manipulated or forgotten.
The photographs in this film not only highlight the lives of black families, but also show their experiences and perspectives. These images are often missing from historical canons because they depict a more complex and nuanced view of American culture than ever seen before. The photography medium was embraced by African Americans as early as during the Civil War era to subvert traditional stereotypes, with Frederick Douglass photographed in a suit and soldiers proudly posing for pictures dressed in uniform.
Conclusions: Documentaries about African American History
Hope you enjoyed this list of documentaries about African American History.
Images credits: Unsplash.com