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Black History Month, assigned to February, is an opportunity to explore and reflect on the rich history of struggle and achievement of African Americans in spite of tremendous obstacles.
To help make the most of this month, we have assembled a collection of 16 essential documentaries focused on African-American history.
Black History Month @ Andrews University
Althea Gibson broke records on and off the tennis court. A truant from the rough streets of Harlem, Gibson emerged as a most unlikely queen of the highly segregated tennis world in the 1950s. A sharecropper's daughter, Gibson's family migrate north to Harlem in the 1930s, when fame that thrust her into the glare of the early Civil Rights movement. This films gives this elite athlete the attention she so richly deserves as uncompromising and courageous trailblazer and American pioneer.
Come Hell or High Water by
Publication Date: 2014
Follows the painful but inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to coastal Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. Over the course of a decade, Derrick and his neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians and face ordeals that include Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice.
Conversations with Roy DeCarava
'It starts before you snap the shutter... It starts with your sense of what's important.' These are the words of Roy DeCarava, one of the foremost photographic artists of the twentieth century, contributor to the Family of Man exhibit and the first black photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship. These are the words of a man who focuses his lens, sensitivities and conscience on the life, tempo and sensibilities of black people and the contemporary urban environment. Conversations with Roy DeCarava examines his life and work, and features appearances by internationally noted photographer Ansel Adams, photography critic A.D. Coleman, and the executive director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell. It deftly interweaves 108 of DeCarava's black and white stills with a portrait of the artist discussing his life, past struggles, his efforts to foster young black photographers, and the relationship of his work to the black experience in America. DeCarava's unforgettable images have immortalized the jazz world through his photographs of contemporaries Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Roy Haynes and others.
Counting on Democracy
The story of what happened in Florida during the 2000 Bush-Gore presidential race and the disenfranchisement of many voters.
Finally Got the News
A documentary presenting the workers' view of working conditions inside Detroit's auto factories. It focuses on the activities of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in their efforts to build an independent African American labor organization which, unlike the United Auto Workers, would respond to the racism and dangerous working conditions faced by African American workers in the industry. It also explores the educational "tracking" system for both white and black youth, the role of African American women in the labor force, and racial relations between workers.
The Great Flood
The Mississippi River Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in American history. In the spring of 1927, the river broke out of its earthen embankments in 145 places and inundated 27,000 square miles. Part of its legacy was the forced exodus of displaced sharecroppers, who left plantation life and migrated to Northern cities, adapting to an industrial society with its own set of challenges. Musically, the Great Migration fueled the evolution of acoustic blues to electric blues bands that thrived in cities like Memphis, Detroit and Chicago becoming the wellspring for R&B and rock as well as developing jazz styles. This film is a collaboration between filmmaker and multimedia artist Bill Morrison and guitarist and composer Bill Frisell inspired by the 1927 catastrophe.
I Am Somebody
Live film coverage of a successful hospital workers' strike in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1969. Shows the crucial help of Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Coretta Scott King in organizing demonstrations in support of the workers, mostly black women. Includes interviews with city officials and strikers.
In motion: Amiri Baraka
Documentary covering Baraka from his early days in Greenwich Village to his present literary and political activities. Focuses on the final two weeks before his sentencing at federal court on the charges of resisting arrest.
The Intolerable Burden
Documentary film of how Mae Bertha and Matthew Carter enrolled the youngest eight of their thirteen children in the public schools of Drew, Mississippi in 1965, which were all white. The Drew school board had initiated a "freedom of choice" plan to bring the district in compliance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but Blacks were not expected to choose all white schools.
The Long Walk To Freedom
A documentary about how 12 ordinary people, from very different backgrounds, came to accomplish extraordinary deeds; deeds which changed the face of the nation. Together with tens of thousands of other Americans, they joined the Civil Rights movement to protest racial inequality, segregation, and discrimination in the 1960s.
Love and Solidarity
Love and Solidarity is an exploration of nonviolence and organizing through the life and teachings of Rev. James Lawson. Lawson provided crucial strategic guidance while working with Martin Luther King, Jr., in southern freedom struggles and the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968. Moving to Los Angeles in 1974, Lawson continued his nonviolence organizing in multi-racial community and worker coalitions that have helped to remake the LA labor movement. Through interviews and historical documents, acclaimed labor and civil rights historian Michael Honey and award-winning filmmaker Errol Webber put Lawson's discourse on nonviolent direct action on the front burner of today's struggles against economic inequality, racism and violence, and for human rights, peace, and economic justice.
The Loving Story
On June 2, 1958, Richard Loving and his fiancee Mildred Jeter traveled from Caroline County, VA, to Washington, D.C. to be married. Later, the newlyweds were arrested, tried and convicted of the felony crime of miscegenation. Two young ACLU lawyers took on the Lovings case, fully aware of the challenges posed. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in their favor on June 12, 1967 and resulted in sixteen states being ordered to overturn their bans on interracial marriage.
Presents four charismatic and influential Americans who have led very dissimilar lives, yet have one thing in common: they are all former members of the Black Panther Party. Focuses on the lives of Jamal Joseph, Nile Rodgers, Kathleen Cleaver, and the last surviving founding member, Bobby Seale. Combining archival footage with recent interviews, this documentary examines black America today, and looks at the promise and limitations of revolutionary change.
Seven Songs for Malcolm X
A collection of testimonies, eyewitness accounts, and dramatic reenactments which tell of the life, legacy, loves and losses of Malcolm X.
They Are We
THEY ARE WE is the story of a remarkable reunion, 170 or so years after a family was driven apart by the ravages of the transatlantic slave trade.