12 Docs and Books for Black History Month

Modern perspectives on ongoing struggles


The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross

Producers: Sabin Streeter (white), Jamila Wignot, Leslie Asako Gladsjo, Phil Bertelsen

What does it mean to be an African-American in the United States today? This Emmy Award-winning series delves beyond Black history and into Black identity from social, religious, and cultural perspectives.

Slavery By Another Name

Producer: Samuel D. Pollard

This documentary explores the continuation of Black slavery in the United States after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It details the re-enslaving process of Black individuals as forced arrestees, and the continuing legacy of that process today. Though the film is directed by Sam Pollard, a Black director and producer, it is important to note that the book on which the film is based is written by white author Douglas A. Blackmon.


Producer: Samuel D. Pollard

Another critically acclaimed documentary by Sam Pollard is the Netflix show MLK/FBI. Diving into newly declassified files, Pollard documents the U.S. Government’s surveillance, suppression and harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement — the lengths of which are outright criminal.

Eyes On The Prize

Producers: Orlando Bagwell, Sheila Curran Bernard, Callie Crossley, James A. DeVinney, Madison D. Lacy, Louis Massiah, Thomas Ott, Samuel D. Pollard, Terry Kay Rockefeller, Jacqueline Shearer, Paul Stekler, Judith Vecchione

This 1987 docuseries aims to catalog all of the important events during the Civil Rights Movement, including, but not limited to, the 1954 Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Instead of focusing on one specific event or storyline, the series tells the objective history of the whole movement from a Black perspective.

Soundtrack for a Revolution

Producers: Dan Sturman, Bill Guttentag

Note: Neither of these producers are BIPOC individuals. 

The Civil Rights Movement documentary for music nerds is here! Soundtrack for a Revolution delves into the music of the Civil Rights movement, focusing on the freedom songs that evolved from slave chants and werer sung on mass meetings, in jail cells, on picket lines and more.

Dark Girls

Producers: D. Channsin Berry, Bill Duke

A perspective often overlooked in the frame of Black History Month is that of intersectionality. This film dives not only into the Black perspective in modern-day America, but that of Black women and femmes. What is it like to be a Black woman today? What stories and warnings are Black girls raised on? The abject goal of Dark Girls is to broadcast the message that Black truly is beautiful.

Breaking the Huddle: The Integration of College Football

Producer: William C. Rhoden

This one’s for the sports fans out there. African-American writer William C. Rhoden dives into the heyday of the college football community in predominantly Black universities during the Civil Rights movement, and builds up to a climax at the 1970 game between the all-White University of Alabama and the fully integrated University of Southern California — a game that is widely considered to be the cornerstone that changed college football in the South forever.

More Than a Month

Producer: Shukree Hassan Tilghman

Should we continue to celebrate Black History Month as we do? This is the question on director Shukree Hassan Tilghman’s mind as he sets off across the U.S., searching to learn the power structures and racial structures in contemporary America. Tilghman’s narrative revolves around opening up a public conversation about ethnic heritage months, and whether lumping Black History Month into the coldest, shortest month of the year and separating it from American history as a whole denigrates the pivotal role of Black culture in American history.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

Producer: Stanley Nelson Jr.

Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue is widely considered to be the greatest jazz record of all time. Rolling Stone rated it #12 on its list of the 500 greatest albums in history, and for good reason — it defined a generation of music. This documentary dives deep into his life, his music and the mythology surrounding this jazz legend. A companion book to this is Miles’ rather vulgar, but intensely funny and interesting autobiography; “Miles.”

Journey of an African Colony

Producer: BB Shasore

This docuseries, based on the books by director Olasupo Shasore, explores the history of Nigeria’s fight for independence, including many pivotal figures and backstage stories that never got the recognition they deserved. It is based on two books — Possessed: A History of Law & Justice in the Crown Colony of Lagos 1861-1906, and A Platter Of Gold: Making Nigeria — by retired attorney general and author Olasupo Shasone.

Just As I Am: A Memoir

Author: Cicely Tyson

Cecily Tyson, an African-American actress and creative known for portraying strong African-American women, lived an illustrious career that spanned over seven decades before passing away in January 28, 2021. Her memoir recounts her life, her fight with racism in a white-dominated nation, and her impressive list of accomplishments “with the glitter and garland set aside.”

An Afro-Indigenous History of the United States

Author: Kyle Mays

This nonfiction story explores the intersectional perspective of the Black and Native American struggle for freedom in the United States. Spanning centuries of history, the author details the constant, ever-continuing battle that Black and Indigenous Americans have been fighting for generations—sometimes separately, sometimes united.

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