Due to social rights movements such as BLM, humans are starting to understand the issues, problems, and stigma that blacks have to face in their everyday lives and have been facing for centuries.
It is hard to wrap your head around the racial injustice that has prevailed in our society for so long. One way to understand the racist policies and tendencies of the past is by watching African American movies.
Instead of relying on other humans to tell their stories, black filmmakers from various backgrounds have shared historic tales through films on their own. Here are the top films about marginalized blacks.
1. Within Our Gates
This feature film was released in 1920 and was directed by Oscar Micheaux, an Africa-American who was one of the pioneers of the race film movement. The movement was a complete industry of black-cast films that were shown in theaters.
This movie shows the experience of a black lady who was migrating to the North. In the early 20th century, this was a very important experience and in the scene where Sylvia runs away from the deep trauma that she and her family faced, the viewers are shocked to the core.
From lynching to rape and imprisonment, with police men staying silent, the conditions in the South were not humane at all. The content causes us to reflect on the injustices. It was a response to ‘The Birth of a Nation’ and Micheaux is trying to say that African Americans are also proud American citizens.
One of the most creative independent filmmakers today is Julie Dash. She created this 34-minute cinema film about blacks when she was studying at UCLA. A female executive, called Mignon Dupree, is working in a studio in Hollywood, which was pretty rare in the 1940s.
Moreover, she is a black woman posing as a white woman which makes things even interesting. The high quality picture echoes the style of old Hollywood films. The story is interesting and so is the direction and cinematography.
The motion pictures that Dash made were not about sensational instances. As an activist, she ensured that it was all about the everyday issues that they faced, including their professional life.
3. Hidden Figures
Another great motion picture is Hidden Figures and we learn a lot about racism in the U.S. from that. The plot is about three African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1960s. We recommend that you read book or essays about Hidden Figures and then watch the televised version. Katherine Johnson is one of the women featured in it, and we get to see a brilliant tale of willpower, struggle, and overcoming hurdles as these women make history.
4. Malcolm X
This is based on a true story and is loved across the globe. Spike Lee was the director and he presented the legacy of the legendary figure most beautifully and authentically possible.
The film had a big budget and other black celebrities – Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, etc.- gave money for the film. It got a lot of attention even before its release. The pilgrimage of Malcolm X to Makkah and the way it transformed his understanding of color.
We see how he recognizes that racial differences don’t stop you from building a community and living in solidarity with others. The violence his family faced, his journey towards Islam, and a lot more are all depicted beautifully in this film.
5. Eves Bayou (1997)
This is a motion-picture directed by Kasi Lemmons and is a truly creative performance piece. Set in the 1960s in Louisiana and shows us how a typical Southern family lived in this era. We get to know the lives of the black communities that were racially segregated.
We learn about the bonds of family and how slavery impacts generations after generation.
6. George Washington Carver at Tuskegee Institute
This is a short film of about 12 minutes. It shows the legendary scientist hard at work in Tuskegee at his lab. The experiments in rotating cotton with peanuts resulted in a new agriculture model that will help all the Southerners lead a good, happy existence.
This country is indebted to him forever. There are many photos of Carver, but there isn’t much moving footage of him. This is probably because he was a private guy who was not looking for fame, commercial gain, and popularity.
This footage is remarkable as we see him working with plants in his lab. Not a lot of us know that he was a king of an artist as well and we can see his paintings in this footage as well. Moreover, we can also see him crocheting.
With the talk of STEM education all around us, it is nice to see the creative side of this inspirational person.
7. Still a Brother: Inside the Negro Middle Class
William Greaves is an incredible filmmaker and he is the director of this film. Since it was produced for the National Educational Television, he had to be very careful. This was supposed to be a lighthearted depiction of the changing demographic shift.
They were then called Negros, and they worked hard and were becoming financially stable. They were moving in social circles that were previously off-limits for them. In this film, Greaves discusses what challenges they were facing as they tried to assimilate into society.
Even though they could now afford fancy cars, possessed houses, and go to Martha’s Vineyard for vacations, the race difference is still there and they are still being discriminated against. The reality was then, and even today, that no matter how far up the economic ladder they make it, the oppressive prejudice in different terms is still there.
The group stories that these motion pictures tell shape the imagination of the young viewers. Moreover, these cinematic motion pictures are a way of changing the world off-screen as well. Classrooms aren’t the only place where you can learn historic lessons. Watch the ones we have selected above – it will be worth your time!