February is Black History month and, recently, there have been a number of successful, critically acclaimed films detailing the history of African Americans including 12 Years a Slave and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Undoubtedly, this is a very sensitive subject but it is important for our youth to be educated about the unpleasant moments in this nation’s past. Here are 10 films to consider viewing.
The 1977 television miniseries, Roots, has become a classic in its own right. Author Alex Haley tells the story of his fourth great-grandfather, Kunte Kinte, who was brought to America and sold into slavery. The episodes shed light on historical events including the Civil War and Emancipation while depicting the struggle of families torn apart by separation and violence.
Imitation of Life
There are two versions of this older film about a single African American mother who is raising a daughter who is so light-skinned that most people do not realize she is not white. As she grows up, she does her best to distance herself from her ethnicity which, sadly, leads to devastating consequences.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Originally a literary classic that often appears on the required reading lists of high school students, the film adaptation deftly tells the story of 1930s Southern lawyer, Atticus Finch, who puts his life and reputation on the line to defend an African American man who has been wrongfully accused of rape.
Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
This popular, Oscar-winning 1967 drama explores the prejudices that existed during the Civil Rights Movement and the decision of a young African American doctor who goes home with his white girlfriend in hopes of asking her parents for her hand in marriage. An updated version, Guess Who, covers similar subject matter in a modern setting.
There is no denying that Malcolm X is one of the most pivotal and controversial figures in American history. This biopic tells the tale of the activist’s entire life without shying away from the less than favorable truths. Many consider the film one of the most culturally significant films of the 20th century.
The Color Purple
Based on the acclaimed novel by Alice Walker, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation follows the life of Celie Johnson as an African American woman in the early 20th century. The deeply moving and often heartbreaking movie provides insight into the trials and tribulations of entire generations.
Inspired by novels based on the memoirs of Col. Robert Gould Shaw, Glory is an inspirational film that chronicled the rise of the first all-black regiment. With Shaw at the command, the men of the historic 54th Regiment gained respect as soldiers during the Civil War which led to acceptance and camaraderie among men from all backgrounds.
The Jackie Robinson Story
This biopic is actually a combination of documentary and narrative since Jackie Robinson plays himself in the movie. The story chronicles the racism, hatred and abuse the first African American Major League Baseball player faced as he rose to fame.
Boyz n the Hood
John Singleton became the first African American nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards for Boyz n the Hood, a glaringly honest film that starts with the sobering fact that “1 in 21 American black males will be a victim of murder… Most will be killed by other black males.” The movie takes a hard look at what it is like for youths growing up in gang riddled neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
The critically acclaimed film follows an aspiring author during the Civil Rights Movement as she works on a book based on the experience of African American maids who work for white families in the 1960s. The film sheds light on the hardships and injustices they face every day.
For Black History month, review some films and choose the ones that you feel are age-appropriate to share with your children. It definitely isn’t an easy topic to discuss but, with so many issues continue to plague our society today, it is worth the effort.