Movies to Watch for Black History Month

By Tracey Dowdy

Did you know Canada and the UK celebrate Black History Month too? Canada observes it in February and the UK observes it in October.

There are countless movies made about the African American experience that cover everything from slavery to Civil Rights, so no matter the age of your children, there’s always something to watch. As with any movie, be mindful of age appropriateness. While it’s important for all of us to understand the history of the struggle, make sure both the theme and the way the story is presented is suitable for younger viewers.

Ruby Bridges (NR, Disney, 1998) – One of my daughter Sarah’s favorite books when she was little was about Ruby Bridges. I introduced the story to her when she was six – the same as Ruby when she was at the center of the desegregation of schools in 1960. It’s a powerful story of courage and the power of standing up for what is right even if you’re the only one. (Amazon Video)

The Watson’s Go to Birmingham (PG, 2013) – is a Hallmark Channel adaption of the Newbery and Coretta Scott King Honoree book by Christopher Paul Curtis. Set in the pivotal summer of 1963, the Watson family sets out from their home in Michigan to visit family in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s a funny, poignant and very powerful story. (Netflix, Amazon Video)

To Kill a Mockingbird (NR, 1962) – No list would be complete without To Kill a Mockingbird. Told from the perspective of six-year old Scout, it’s the fictional story of her father Atticus Finch and his defense of an innocent black man in small town Alabama in 1932. (Netflix, Amazon Video)

4 Little Girls (TV-14, 1997) is a documentary about one of the most despicable crimes of the civil rights movement – the bombing of the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama in September 15, 1963 that resulted in the death of four children. Told through the eyes of the girls’ families and others who witnessed or reported on the bombing, Spike Lee takes an unflinching look at an event that ultimately galvanized the nation and became a pivotal moment in the fight for civil rights. (Netflix, Amazon)

Freedom (R, 2014) tells two stories set 100 years apart. The first is the story of Samuel Woodward, a runaway slave who escapes to Canada via the Underground Railroad. The second is of John Newton, captain of a slave ship who later sees the wickedness of the slave trade, becomes a minister, and eventually pens the classic hymn “Amazing Grace.” The R rating is for on-screen violence and some frightening scenes.  (Netflix)

Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (NR – 2003) is a documentary that examines the complex story of the 1831 slave revolt in Virginia. It looks at the revolt and its aftermath from both sides and uses historical documents as well as insight from historians to put the revolt into perspective. (Netflix, Amazon)

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.


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