As racial justice issues have continued to give rise to tensions in our country, we wanted to take the time this week to contribute helpful resources and information for those wanting to better understand, advocate and contribute proactive change toward injustices that have plagued our history into current times. If you’re looking for more ways to gain awareness and perspective, here are 10 important films to consider adding to your search.
Please note some of the films below may be difficult to watch (and may not be appropriate for younger audiences), but they provide an important lesson on the racial issues we’re facing in America today.
Roots is a historical portrait of one family’s journey through American slavery and their will to survive and preserve their legacy in the face of unimaginable hardship.
A saga of African-American life, based on Alex Haley’s family history. Kunta Kinte is abducted from his African village, sold into slavery, and taken to America. He makes several escape attempts until he is finally caught and maimed. He marries Bell, his plantation’s cook, and they have a daughter, Kizzy, who is eventually sold away from them. Kizzy has a son by her new master, and the boy grows up to become Chicken George. He’s a legendary cock fighter who leads his family into freedom. Throughout the series, the family observes notable events in U.S. history, such as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, slave uprisings, and emancipation. (IMDB)
This unforgettable true story chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement. Director Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. (IMDB)
You can watch on Amazon here.
3. 12 Years a Slave
Based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty personified by a malevolent slave owner, as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life. (IMDB)
You can watch on Amazon here.
Combining archival footage with testimony from activists and scholars, director Ava DuVernay’s examination of the U.S. prison system looks at how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America.
You can watch on Youtube here.
5. When They See Us
Based on a true story that gripped the country, When They See Us will chronicle the notorious case of five teenagers of color, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit. The four part limited series will focus on the five teenagers from Harlem — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise. Beginning in the spring of 1989, when the teenagers were first questioned about the incident, the series will span 25 years, highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014. (Youtube)
Watch When They See Us on Netflix here.
6. I am Not Your Negro
In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, “Remember This House.” The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a journey into black history that connects the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter, questioning black representation in Hollywood and beyond. (IMDB)
Watch this film on Amazon here.
7. Just Mercy
Just Mercy takes us inside America’s broken criminal justice system and compels us to confront inequality and injustice.
Based on the bestselling book, the Just Mercy movie presents the unforgettable story of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) and the case of Walter McMillian (Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx), who was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. – Equal Justice Initiative
Watch Just Mercy for free on Amazon here.
8. The Hate You Give
Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right. (IMDB)
Watch on amazon here.
9. Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992
Director John Ridley’s critically acclaimed, feature-length documentary Let It Fall takes an unflinching look at the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, tracing its roots back a decade and unfolding its history as a series of very personal decisions and very public failures. The film weaves heartbreaking firsthand accounts from Angelinos of different backgrounds and classes, caught up in a cascade of rising tension, culminating in an explosion of anger and fear after the Rodney King verdict. (Youtube)
Watch on Netflix here.
Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, Harriet tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history. (IMDB)
Watch Harriet on Amazon here.