Black History Month is upon us and that means it’s the perfect time to dive into some educational and entertaining documentaries about the Black community in America.
This year is particularly important as it marks the first Black History Month following the widespread protests about racial inequality sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in May of 2020.
In light of the heightened awareness, popular streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu and more are offering plenty of documentaries to help people educate themselves and others on important real-life stories having to do with Black culture. To help people who may be overwhelmed with options when it comes to what documentaries to watch, below is a rundown of some of the popular ones available to stream in 2021:
I Am Not Your Negro (Netflix)
This documentary film, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, takes an in-depth look at the history of racism in the United States. Inspired by James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript for “Remember This House” from the 1970s, the film recounts the experience of several civil rights leaders such as Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
The film was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature at the 89th Academy Awards. Through a combination of archival footage and interviews, viewers are treated to a very educational look at the history faced by many Black advocates for change in modern America.
John Lewis: Good Trouble (HBO Max)
The world was rocked by the death of U.S. Rep. John Lewis in July 2020. A month prior to his death, the documentary about his life premiered in Tulsa, Okla., whose history is marred by the infamous Tulsa Massacre, on Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of those enslaved in the United States.
The film follows the Georgia congressman’s career as a teenager on the front lines of the civil rights movement all the way through his rise to prominence and power in Congress. “John Lewis: Good Trouble” is a particularly timely story about a particularly timely individual.
Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (Shudder)
The app for all things horror, Shudder, dropped an impressive look at one of the more niche areas of Black culture, the horror genre. With appearances from Jordan Peele and many more stars of the horror genre, “Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror” delves into the century of scary movies that either honored, exploited or caricatured the Black community.
Through it all, the horror genre has endured while Black characters within it have evolved immeasurably. The documentary is based on Robin Means Colman’s seminal book “Horror Noire” and is the perfect addition to the average film nerd’s library.
B.B. King: On the Road (Hulu)
One of the most acclaimed eclectic guitarists, B.B. King, and his legendary guitar, Lucille, are almost synonymous with the American blues genre.
The documentary features a robust look at the music legend’s days spent traveling the country and various nights performing gigs as well as the many adventures he encountered on the road. The 2017 film features exclusive contributions from King himself to paint the clearest picture yet of his final years on the road before he stopped touring regularly.
Another feature from Ava DuVernay for Netflix, “13th” takes a grim look at the United States’ system of mass incarceration and how race plays a factor in the justice system. The movie is titled after the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that abolished slavery in 1865.
The film takes a look at the Reconstruction era after the Civil War and how the prison system was, in many ways, used to keep the institution of slavery alive in another form. Eventually, the film runs throughout the entirety of post Civil War U.S. history into the modern day, where the problem persists. The film was nominated for best documentary feature at the Oscars when it came out in 2016.