16 Must-Watch Black History Movies for February and Beyond

16 Must-Watch Black History Movies for February and Beyond

by Sue Jones
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You’ve probably noticed that the big streaming services—Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu—are highlighting Black history movies throughout February in honor of Black History Month. From documentaries to biopics to historical dramas, there are plenty of options for watching films centered on the Black experience in America. And while watching these movies certainly won’t end racism (only concerted anti-racism from both individuals and institutions can make that possible), they can be a powerful tool in understanding its origins and devastating impact—and in motivating change.

It’s simple to share a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on Instagram; it’s more challenging to understand the nuanced context of that time period—and for non-Black people to acknowledge how relatively little progress has been made in this country since then. That’s why, in the spirit of inspiring social change through art, I asked thought leaders in the anti-racism space—ranging from best-selling authors to award-winning filmmakers—to give their recommendations for the most compelling Black history movies to watch during Black History Month and beyond. 

Whether you’re Black and want to learn more about your own history, or you’re an aspiring ally looking to educate yourself on the Black experience as part of your anti-racism work, or you simply want to enjoy a really good movie, these films are worth adding to your queue.

1. Claudine (1974)

Diahann Carroll was a goddess in pretty much everything she starred in, and the 1974 film Claudine is no exception. This movie has something for everybody: comedy, romance, and terrific performances from Carroll and her on-again, off-again love interest, James Earl Jones. It’s also a fascinating and honest depiction of Black life in 1970s Harlem—one that differed greatly from the major Blaxploitation films that were coming out around the same time. Throw in a soundtrack of songs written by Curtis Mayfield and sung by Gladys Knight and the Pips, and you get a soulful and surprising time capsule. —Zakiya Dalila Harris, author of New York Times best-seller The Other Black Girl

2. Slavery by Another Name (2012)

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