Best Movies for Black History Month: Movie Reviews
Updated: Feb 21, 2022
Once a year Black History Month rolls upon us. A time when people forwardly speak upon African American contributions to society. It’s a time when teachers decorate their classroom doors with black history facts. A time when black pride tee-shirts and sweatshirts fill online storefronts.
It’s a time when people search the internet for things like: black history facts, when was black history month created and what are the best black history movies to watch.
But race… dare I saw that word. HOT TOPIC! Since the murder of George Floyd, the subject of race has exploded once again. Social Media comment sections are riddled with opinions. Newspaper article titles are bold --- “Ban Critical Race Theory in our American schools.” Coffee shop conversations, “Whoopi Goldberg is clueless.” No matter what, you can’t escape it.
But many people utilize black history month as a moment to reflect. How far we’ve come as a race, as a society and how far must we go to reach the promise land Martin Luther King Jr. so vividly spoke of. Black people often feel like we’re preaching to the choir on the matter. This is because many times our only audience is other black people. They shout their “Amens” and “yep girl, you’re right” but the knowledge rarely leaves the borders of black-on-black conversations.
THAT ONE TIME I ALMOST WENT VIRAL
When the nation blew up in Black Lives Matter protest in 2020, I was compelled to write a lengthy Facebook post. For some reason I felt an urgency to tell my story and how it related to race. I understood the risk was judgement but didn’t care. Something just didn’t feel right. There were lots of people of all races sharing their thoughts. But to me, it seemed many of them spoke from ZERO experience or white guilt even. The post was liked 1.6K times, 277 people commented, and it was shared 97 times. We connected. Up until that day, my white God son was the only other non-black person who regularly listened to my stories. It felt like progress. I was invited to coffee dates, cook-outs and even local bars. It was short lived due to the pandemic, people just weren’t hanging out. Yet, I still look forward to it in the future.
You can read the post here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/604230789639685/permalink/3229845563744848/
As I reflected on that Facebook post, I realized this list of black history educational movies should be inclusive. I wanted to speak to other races once more. Black history is American History, so I selected family movies for black history month that should receive no pushback. In fact, they offer ways in which we can continue to push through racial barriers and bias.
Black People are More than Ball Players and Musicians
I intentionally didn’t fill the list with athletes and musicians. I questioned, why are Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Thomas Edison household names? Yet, Granville T. Woods, Christopher Young, or Mark E. Dean aren't? Don’t get me wrong here, I’m proud of our athleticism and musical talents but everyone doesn’t stand a chance at becoming the next Michaels – Michael Jordan nor Michael Jackson. And since my list was created to inspire, I wanted to inspire more than sports fanatics.
This list contains of movies all “based on true stories and events.” There are deep lessons to be learned by all. We rated each of the movies at 5 stars.
OUR TOP BLACK HISTORY MONTH MOVIES
It is a dramatization of two men, Dr. Alfred Blalock (white), and Viven Thomas (black), dedicated to solving the “Blue Baby Syndrome” – A congenital heart defect in babies causing premature death. The movie is set in the end of the Depression Era at John Hopkins Institute. In the 1930’s, when blacks weren’t allowed to use front entrances. And the only black employees were janitors.
In the movie, Something the Lord Made, there was a point where Dr. Alfred Blalock could have given praises to Viven Thomas for his extensive research and talent. He did not. It caused Viven to abandon his love of medicine and pursue a less fulfilling career. The rift broke a lengthy relationship between the two talented men. Will they ever join forces again to save more children? Watch and see.
The movie was originally released in 2004. However, there is still plenty to unpack and apply to today’s society.
This plot is sure to take you on an emotional roller coaster. The film is set in 1971 in Alexandria, Virginia. Contextually, in the early 1970’s, racial tensions in the United States “were high as blacks became frustrated with economic conditions that did not improve despite advancements of civil rights (White House History). In 1965 the city of Alexandria integrated their schools. However, it wasn’t until 1971 T.C. Williams, where the film was set, became the only high school in the city serving all 11th and 12th graders. Can you say recipe for the perfect storm? White kids taunted the white football players for befriending their black teammates during training camp, “looks like you found some new monkey friends at the zoo.” While black kids taunted the black football players for the same, “You uncle Tom. You traitor.” The first day of integrated class the school lawn was peppered with picket signs and shouting parents, “We don’t want our kids here.”
The magic happens when both the black and white football players silences the noise. They set their sight on playing in the championship. Friendships were lost and gained. Relationships broken and rekindled, and racial lines were severed forever. This movie is a must see because it teaches conflict resolution, similarities over differences and love over hate.
The movie was originally released in 2000
The job of producing a screen adaptation highlighting two of the world’s best tennis players was a huge task. But the production company didn’t fail. Will Smith crunched the character of Richard Williams and did-not-disappoint! And Saniyya Sidney, BODIED the role of Venus Williams. I added King Richard to the list with black children in mind but it’s a great story for all.
Often in black communities, households develop along the lines of the “parent is always right” and “do as I say.” So much so, when I was growing up, I often heard my mother state, “do as I say and not as I do.” Another thing I recall hearing a lot as a child was “kids are to be seen and not heard.” It didn’t leave a lot of opportunity for black children to express themselves freely.
Richard Williams was depicted as that sort of parent. Though strict in his childrearing, he taught all five siblings humbleness, discipline, familial love and loyalty. But most of all, he and his wife taught Venus and Serena the game of tennis. The children displayed a great deal of respect for both parents.
Ghettos exists. It’s a fact. The Williams’ lived and trained in Compton where there’s a shortage of plush tennis courts. That was inspirational – an essence of what it means to start from the bottom but now we’re here!
One main thing I believe families could learn from this film is children aren’t voiceless. It was a lesson Richard learned in the movie. We must listen to our children, cultivate their talents and encourage them. However, the lessons are countless. You gotta see it for yourself.
King Richards was originally released in 2021