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Art & Culture

11 Important TV Shows And Movies To Further Your Education On Black History

By Laura Rogan June 4, 2020

Support isn’t just about attending protests, it’s about education too.

You’ve shifted your energy, shared the stories, signed the petitions and donated to some of the most important fundraisers within the Black Lives Matter movement – and it’s a great start, but it’s important to remember that there’s still work to be done. Justice for George Floyd is just the beginning of turning the tide on human rights inequalities that span generations, and we all have to keep our feet on the gas if we’re going to make a real change. The first steps? Educating ourselves and others. While you may be feeling unequipped to further help with the movement, there are a number of ways you can step up to the cause, starting with un-learning, and re-learning key moments in black history, bringing us to why we are where we are today. Inspired by @unity.celeste‘s essential list of learning resources available on popular streaming platforms, we’ve put together some of the best places to start with furthering your education.

1. 13th, Netflix

Credit: Netflix

Netflix has been supporting the black community for quite some time now, producing educational shows and documentaries and providing opportunities for black talent in the film and TV industry, as they should be. In 2016, the streaming giant released their critically acclaimed documentary 13th, a film which explores the history of racial inequality in the US, delving into the country’s radically biased prison system. The documentary has won a plethora of awards, and was even nominated for an Oscar following its release. 13th is streaming on Netflix internationally now.

2. BlackKklansman, Now TV

Credit: Focus Features

From legendary filmmaker and activist Spike Lee, BlackKklansman tells the true story of African-American detective Ron Stallworth, who successfully infiltrated the KKK in the 70s. The movie is based on Stallworth’s tell-all memoir titled Black Klansman, and covers how Stallworth was the first black officer hired in the Colorado Springs Police Department, as well as his journey on a mission to take down the extremist white supremacist hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. The movie outlines just how disturbing the group’s mindset is (even to this day), and just how little things have changed in 50 years. BlackKklansman can be watched via Now TV.

3. When They See Us, Netflix

Credit: Netflix

A four-part drama based on the true story of five young people charged with the rape of a jogger in 1989, When They See Us spans the course of 25 years. The series follows the ‘Central Park Five’ as they fight for their innocence, right from their initial questioning, to their eventual exoneration in 2002 and beyond. The series was directed and co-written by acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay, also behind 13th, and had viewers shocked upon its 2019 release. The drama has been celebrated for its representation of the five’s wrongful convictions, revealing the racist cracks in the US justice system. You can stream When They See Us on Netflix internationally.

4. Dear White People, Netflix

Credit: Netflix

Now in its third season, Dear White People follows a small number of black college students, who are studying at a predominantly white Ivy League school. The series follows a narrative built around race relations and the issues surrounding them. The show was met with rave reviews upon its release, providing powerful and provocative moments that many people of colour have likely experienced in their own lives – experiences that must be understood as we move towards a world with social justice. All three seasons are available on Netflix.

5. Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap, Netflix

Credit: Vox

Explained does a great job of breaking down real-life issues and covering a wide range of topics, including the racial wealth gap. Season 1, episode 1 gets right to work, taking an in-depth look at the wealth gap between different races in the US and the causes for it, including slavery and racial segregation. The truth is absolutely shocking, revealing that white families have a median wealth which is 10x greater than that of black families. The episode is available to watch on Netflix.

6. American Son, Netflix

Credit: Netflix

Taking the popular stage play to the small screen, Kerry Washington takes the lead in American Son, a story about an estranged couple who reunite in a police station when their son goes missing. The movie takes viewers on a highly emotional journey, portraying the fear of a mother worried for her biracial son in a racist America. Covering must-know issues, such as inequalities in the justice system and racial bias, American Son should be on anyone’s list who’s looking to understand more about the reason behind the global protests.

7. Time: The Kalief Browder Story, Netflix

Credit: The Cinemart

A docu-series about Kalief Browder, Time: The Kalief Browder Story – executive produced by Jay-Z – tells the story of the 16-year-old teen from the Bronx who spent three years in jail, despite committing no crime. The story is eye-opening, tragic and emotional, detailing how the innocent teen spent two years in solitary confinement on Rikers Island – a jail which is intended to hold people for less than a year. Browder was incarcerated for three years before prosecutors released him due to lack of evidence, and his case played a huge part in the Black Lives Matter campaign following his death in 2015. Watch the series on Netflix now.

8. Who Killed Malcolm X?, Netflix

Credit: Netflix

Recently released back in February, Netflix docu-series Who Killed Malcolm X? investigates Malcolm X’s murder, lead by investigative journalist Abdur-Rahman Muhammad. The human rights activist was assassinated in 1965, and as a result of the new mini-series – which details new information about his death – the case of his murder could be re-opened. The documentary talks through numerous theories around the death, despite three men previously being jailed for the murder. The Innocence Project, who also has a Netflix documentary called The Innocence Files, has claimed to have seen files that exonerate those who were accused – with some suspicions that the act was carried out by the FBI. Watch the series on Netflix now.

9. The Hate U Give, Now TV

Credit: Fox 2000 Pictures

Based on the book of the same name, The Hate U Give was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and gives great context behind the current protests against police violence. The movie follows Starr Carter, an African American teenager who is forced to stand up for the cause after her best friend is shot by the police. The film is incredibly important in showcasing the anger of the community, with some highly powerful moments about the struggles that black people face that will spark fury in any compassionate human being. The Hate U Give can be streamed via Now TV.

10. If Beale Street Could Talk, Amazon Prime

Credit: Annapurna Pictures

The Oscar-winning If Beale Street Could Talk tells the heartbreaking story about couple Tish and Fonny living in Harlem in the early 70s, whose dreams are shattered when Fonny is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. The love story tells a tale of injustice, with some hard-to-watch moments that detail the troubles black people face still in 2020. The movie stars Regina King, who was celebrated for her performance in the film, and was written by Barry Jenkins, who also wrote acclaimed film Moonlight. The film is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

11. 12 Years A Slave, Netflix

Credit: Regency Enterprises

Based on the memoir by Solomon Northup, 12 Years A Slave is a biographical drama that details the horror Northup faced when kidnapped by two conmen in the 1800s. Northup was sold into slavery, despite being born in New York as a free man, and was transported to Louisianna where he was forced to work on plantations for twelve years of his life. 12 Years A Slave is powerful, moving and a necessary watch for understanding black history and the American slave trade. It’s available to watch on Netflix.