Top Three Movies to Watch for Black History


Collage of all three recommended movies: (from left to right) “13TH”, “The Hate U Give” and “12 Years a Slave”.

By Valentino Okafor

After a very chaotic year of an increase in police brutality especially towards African Americans, race has been at the forefront of most conversations and important events.

 It’s very important and critical that we learn about the history of black people and the oppression that they have suffered for decades and are still suffering till today. Parents and schools have to teach and emphasize how important black history is and how it contributed to the stories of Black excellence. 

Black History Month is celebrated throughout the whole month of February. Not only does this annual celebration recognizes the central role of African Americans in U.S history, but the recognition of Black people is a way for Americans to express gratitude to members of the African American community who have given our country so much, and whose achievements went unrecognized for so long.

There are so many ways to learn and educate yourself on the history of black people and one of the most entertaining and engaging ways is through tv movies and shows. Here are the top three black history movies (and one documentary) that show insights into the black culture and experience and are available right now.

 “12 Years a Slave” (2013)

“12 Years a Slave” is a 2013 biographical period-drama film and an adaptation of the 1853 slave memoir “Twelve Years a Slave” by Solomon Northup. Northop was a New York State-born free African-American man who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., by two conmen in 1841 and sold into slavery. A 2013 production, yet it visualizes a precise atmosphere of 1853.

This movie graphically depicts what life was like for African American slaves in cotton plantations during slavery. It’s a powerful and serious art that does not only teach the message of slave trade but educates the viewers of the harsh maltreatment that could be laid upon humanity. 

It is very important that we learn about it now because despite being a crucial component in the American story, the lives of many important African Americans were hardly ever mentioned in history classes; even with the progress of textbooks. 

You watch this movie on Hulu, Youtube, and Amazon Prime videos. This movie is rated ‘R’ so I recommend watching it with an adult if you are 18 or younger.  Some of the scenes were graphically drawn out which left me feeling so uncomfortable that I had to skip forward.  Be prepared to shed a few tears of anger and frustration.

“The Hate U Give” (2018)

This movie was adapted from a young-adult book called “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. The movie follows a black teenage girl named Starr Carter who feels stuck constantly switching between two worlds — the poor black neighborhood she lives in and a majority white prep school she goes to. Her life is turned upside down when she witnesses her childhood friend shot by a police officer as a result of police brutality. 

“The Hate U Give” provides a loud voice for discussing hard issues of persistent barriers in our societies including social appropriation by whites of black culture, police brutality, covert and internalized racism.

With recent cases of police brutality in 2020, watching this movie will give you a fresh perspective on why this is a big issue in today’s society and what you can do to help.

This movie is rated ‘PG-13’ and it’s a great film to watch as a family. It can be viewed on Hulu, Youtube, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime movies. “What’s the point of having a voice of you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”- Maverick Starr

“13th” (2016)

“13th” is a 2016 American documentary film by director Ava DuVernay. This movie is definitely a must-watch. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States,  starting with slavery and working her way up to modern prison systems that are disproportionately filled with African-Americans. 

This documentary is a very educational piece about the American History of Black struggle and what it really means to be black in America. Guaranteed: viewers will learn more about mass incarceration and how the 13th amendment not only opened another gateway of slavery, but it will also show how it plays a huge role in prison systems today proven by statistics and evidence to back it up.

This movie is open to all viewers for free on Youtube and Netflix. It is a learning opportunity for all students about how the judicial and prison system is corrupt. 

While there are so many more movies that portray the struggles of an African American and their success throughout history, these three listed movies above were my favorites ones and I definitely recommend them to anyone willing to learn more about black history. 

We should always remember that these movies hold a message for all. It’s not just a reminder of past mistakes and injustices.  And these movies do a good job of educating people on the raw violence, harsh brutalities and tough environment that African Americans have endured for decades.